To say that the past 12 months have been a whirlwind affair for Kieran Gibbs would be putting it mildly. Twelve months ago Gibbs was anticipating another year spent in the Arsenal reserves, yet now he has featured regularly for his club and become one of the first names on Stuart Pearce's England under 21 team-sheet.
But it has not all been plain sailing for the young full-back, as his infamous slip in the Champions League final allowed Ji-Sung Park in to score and effectively put the tie beyond Arsenal.
Gibbs himself admitted, "It's hard to think at the time and put the blame on anyone else. After what happened in the Champions League I felt disappointed, not for myself but for the team and the people I thought I had let down.”
However, Gibbs was keen to emphasise that he believed that the slip, while costly at the time, could prove beneficial in the long run.
He added, “I felt disappointed after that, but I'm trying to forget about that now, and this is the tournament I am in. I received a lot of support after that, and that got me through it for the rest of the season.
"I think it showed a mental strength to come back from that, especially straight after. I look at the season as a big success for me personally. I've got my experience in and played in some big games that I wanted to play in.”
Indeed, Gibbs has gone from strength to strength for both club and country, and his manager Stuart Pearce was effusive in his praise for the full-back.
He said, “Kieran is a very strong character. You only have to listen to him speak to know which way he is going.” Pearce added that Gibbs' experiences over the past two months probably equated to at least two years' experience.
“Kieran’s manager picked him for the next game, his performances were just as good. Against Liverpool, he had a shaky 10 minutes, but he played his way out of that and still wanted possession. I saw a maturity beyond his years, that’s why I picked him.”
Since his inclusion in the under 21s, Gibbs has played a starring role, both in England's 2-1 group victory over Finland, but also in their 7-0 friendly victory over Kazakhstan, where he began at left back but grabbed two second half goals when moved into central midfield, where he learnt his trade.
After that match, England's head of youth development Trevor Brooking praised his versatility and added, “He had a good first half at left back, looked equally at home moving up on to the left-hand side of midfield, and ended up scoring two goals from central midfield. He’s been brought up with the right habits at Arsenal. This could be a very good tournament for him.”
This bodes well for both his club and country, and the manner of Gibbs' development bears some resemblance to the emergence of Ashley Cole into the Arsenal first team some 10 years ago.
While Gibbs himself has admitted that a loan move could be in the offing to aid his development, he is content to learn from Gael Clichy, stating, “I don't think it will be too disappointing for me to continue learning from one of the best left-backs in the world.”
Such an attitude is befitting of a player described by many as mature beyond his years, certainly a good attribute to have. Many are tipping Gibbs for international honours in the near future, not least his manager Arsene Wenger, who has said, “I believe he will play for England, and if it happened very quickly, I would not be surprised.”
If and when that call up comes, like he has done with everything that's been thrown his way, expect Gibbs to have the maturity to cope and to thrive.
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