DARRON GIBSON’s former youth coach has urged the troubled Sunderland star to seek help after he was suspended by the Championship club following a drink-driving charge last weekend
The 30-years-old Hazelbank native was involved in an collision on St. Patrick’s Day as his £75,000 Mercedes allegedly crashed into multiple parked cars in the Fulwell area of Sunderland and he was arrested just hours before the ‘Black Cats’ were due to take on Preston at the Stadium of Light.
Photographs of the player, who has been sidelined with a groin injury since January, being spoken to by police at the scene, later emerged on social media shortly after the incident and Sunderland are launching their own investigation into claims he was ‘driving with excess alcohol.’
It’s the second time the Republic of Ireland midfielder has been arrested on drink-driving charges having previously been banned for 20 months for striking a cyclist with his car while admitting to being over the legal alcohol limit when at Everton in September, 2015.
Following Saturday’s incident, Gibson’s former youth coach, Paul Kee, who was largely responsible for the player’s development at Maiden City Academy before he secured a deal with Manchester United as a teenager, called on the Derry man to seek help from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) or other suitable support groups.
Kee, who defended Gibson’s character, said the player was ‘probably not in a good place’ and felt it was ‘sad’ to see him reach this latest low-point in his career having fallen into, what Kee described as, the ‘culture of disappointment’ at recently relegated Sunderland.
It’s happened a couple of times now with Darron. If he wants help it will be there for him. I’m sure the PFA can help him but it’s only Darron can answer that question.Paul Kee
“It’s been difficult because Sunderland have hit a rough patch and so I’m sure there are a lot of players at the club who have been affected by what’s gone on,” said former Institute boss. “Different players react in different ways and it’s unfortunate this has happened to Darron.
“I would know Sunderland manager, Chris Coleman well. I was in contact with him not so long ago. It’s such a big club which has experienced such a fall from grace and Chris was telling me it was a big job.
“There’s a culture of disappointment there. Maybe Darron has fallen into that. It’s happened a couple of times now with Darron. If he wants help, it will be there for him. I’m sure the PFA can help him but it’s only Darron can answer that question.
“We’re very proud of what Darron has achieved but he obviously needs some sort of support. Hopefully he can get his problems sorted out.
“We’re only human and different players handle disappointments in different ways. It’s our culture in Ireland to have a drink and, unfortunately, he’s had a drink and got into a car and that’s definitely not the right thing to do. You can’t condone that behaviour. But he’s a talented boy and hopefully he can get it sorted out.”
Gibson signed for Man United from the Maiden City Academy in 2005 and won a Premier League winners’ medal (2010/11) and two successive League Cups (2009 and 2010) during a successful seven year spell at Old Trafford. He moved to Everton in 2012 where he remained for five seasons before signing for Sunderland last year.
Kee knew he was a ‘special’ player with exceptional passing abilities when he first saw him at Maiden City and he was hopeful he can return to full fitness soon.
“We knew at an early age he was a special player and he’s went on to have a very good career. It’s just sad to see this type of thing happen to him. We always want our past players to do well and it’s just sad to see him betrayed in the media in this way. Darron has had a lot of successes in his life and when you have success, you feel that should continue. He’s had a distinguished career and been at a lot of good clubs and has lived a very privileged lifestyle.
“The unfortunate thing about that is it comes with great responsibility. When you do step out of line and plenty of people do, it’s blown up. He is a human being, he makes mistakes like everyone but it’s unfortunate. He’s definitely a talented player and he still has a good career ahead of him if he can get his problems sorted out.”
While Kee would like to see him get the necessary support for his problems, he stressed that only Darron can take responsibility for his actions.
“I’d like to see him getting back to the levels he should be at but only Darron can do that. The fact he’s a professional sports person brings him under more scrutiny and he’s supposed to be a role model. But I would say it’s been difficult for him recently. He’s had a couple of career moves which haven’t went to his advantage and I’m sure that brings a bit of stress and strain.
“Unfortunately these guys have so much money and so much time on their hands and some turn to gambling while others turn to drink and Darron has probably not been in a good place and he’s been punished for his actions.”