DARRON GIBSON has urged Giovanni Trapattoni to give him a chance to shine against the Spanish on Thursday evening as the Republic of Ireland attempt to salvage their 2012 European Championship campaign.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The 73 year-old Italian coach opted to name both Gibson and fellow Derry man, James McClean on the bench when he announced his side 24 hours prior to Sunday’s painful 3-1 defeat to a rampant Croatia in the Republic’s Group C opener.
And rather surprisingly, neither got their chance to take to the pitch throughout the 90 minutes and the pair watched helplessly from the substitute’s bench as the Republic got their tournament off to a horrendous start.
Trapattoni’s troops now have it all to do as they face World and reigning European champions Spain in Gdansk on Thursday evening (Kick-off 7.45 p.m.) where defeat would ultimately spell the end to their tournament, before tackling the Italians next Monday.
However, Everton midfielder, Gibson hasn’t given up on qualifying for the quarter-finals and, although he has yet to receive an indication as to whether he will start against the Spanish, he is desperate to play some part in the game.
Trapattoni is likely to decide to overload the Irish midfield in a 4-5-1 formation against Spain which could allow Gibson to accompany both Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews in central midfield, and the Hazelbank lad is ready to challenge himself against the likes of Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi.
Commenting from the Republic’s training camp in Poznan last night, Gibson said he was disappointed not to be involved in the opening game but remained optimistic about having some involvement in the final two group games.
“I was very disappointed not to get on against Croatia but, at the end of the day, the manager picks the team and makes the decisions about who comes on and who doesn’t,” said the Irish midfielder.
“So there’s nothing I can do about but do my best in training and hopefully I’ll get my chance soon. I haven’t been given any indication if I’ll be starting the next game,” he added. “I don’t have a clue if I’ll get a chance or not to be perfectly honest. I just hope I can play some part against Spain.
“I’d love to play in any of the games. Obviously the Spain game would be a nice one to play in but, personally, I want to play in them all. I know I can do a job.”
Gibson played down the damage inflicted by the Croatia defeat and claimed the Irish can turn around their fortunes with a favourable result on Thursday.
“Obviously we’re all very disappointed with the way the game went,” said the midfielder.
“With the Italy and Spain game beforehand ending in a draw it would have been a great result for us to win the Croatia game but it wasn’t to be.
“We’ve still got two games left so we’ll just have to quickly forget about last night’s game, pick ourselves up and keep going.”
Thursday’s clash with Vicente Del Bosque’s side now takes on greater significance but, with the help of the large Irish contingent in Poland, Gibson believes they can cause one of the upsets of the tournaments so far.
“To be honest every game was going to be a massive game for us. It’s a tough group but obviously the result on Sunday night makes the next two games a lot bigger for us.
“There’s nothing we can do about the Croatia result now, we have to forget about it and concentrate on Spain.
“The fans were brilliant on Sunday,” he added. “When we went 1-0 down they were still singing and when we were 3-1 down at the end of the game they were still singing their hearts out so it’s good for the players to hear that support and see that they were still behind us.
“We still believe we can go and get two good results that will send us to the next stage. The day after losing a big game in a tournament like this the atmosphere will always be a bit low at training but we won’t be long in picking ourselves up.”
Trapattoni can expect to take some flak from Ireland fans for excluding Sunderland and former Derry City winger, McClean from playing a part in Sunday’s game as he chose to bring on striker, Simon Cox on the left flank as a replacement for Aidan McGeady.
And while the Creggan man will no doubt be extremely frustrated, his fellow Derry man, Gibson is hoping they can both get a chance to strut their stuff against the Spanish.
“It would be nice for myself and James to be involved in the next game, so fingers crossed we get our chance soon,” he concluded.