Paddy Davitt: Ben Gibson has as much to lose as Norwich City
Norwich City’s swoop for Ben Gibson was a statement of intent. It was also a chance for the centre back to revive his career.
Inevitably some Canaries’ fans want to see another addition to that area of Daniel Farke’s squad following the departures of both Ben Godfrey and Timm Klose prior to Friday’s domestic transfer window deadline.
That looks increasingly unlikely. Which places a huge onus on not just Gibson but Christoph Zimmermann and the fit again Grant Hanley.
There might be those who view the Burnley defender’s arrival as something of a gamble given two lost years in his career. But equally these are high stakes for the 27-year-old.
He should be approaching his prime in the coming years, and he would not be human if he had not cast a glance in the direction of the England set up over this international break and wondered what if?
Gibson was on the fringes of the Three Lions’ conversation and was even called up to train with the squad when he was on an upward curve at Middlesbrough that would eventually include a reported £15m Premier League move to Turf Moor in 2018. But his career has stalled and others have passed him by, both for club and country.
Whatever transpired between Gibson and Clarets’ chief Sean Dyche is between those two parties. What is irrefutable however is Norwich have inherited a central defender who needs to play football.
That brings risk but also potentially reward.
Gibson must crave a team who will afford him the opportunities he was palpably denied at his parent club. That debut against Derby, albeit in a losing effort, was an encouraging first step.
Norwich made a persuasive case to bring him to Norfolk this summer.
Stuart Webber found a willing participant to join up with Farke’s crusade to get the club back to the Premier League. Burnley may have needed some persuasion along the way, until the financial parameters around this potential permanent deal were put in place. But Gibson himself was on board very early in the pursuit.
That tells you two things. He views Norwich as a posting that can help revive his career. Secondly, the time had come to get out from Burnley and get back to playing football.
The pedigree is there. Clearly. Yet his composure on the ball may have surprised a few watching against the Rams, given this reputation as a no nonsense centre back. But it was the leadership skills that immediately stood out.
Within minutes of the first whistle those inside Carrow Road, and no doubt anyone watching on television, could hear the Teessider’s booming voice organising City’s backline, cajoling Emi Buendia back into a solid shape without the ball.
It suggested a player natural in that leadership environment and one perhaps already at home inside the Canaries’ dressing room.
That lack of direction is something routinely thrown at a group when things are not going well on the pitch.
It is perhaps overblown and over played on occasion to highlight ‘the lack of leaders’ when most footballers at this elite level need a healthy degree of self sufficiency just to emerge from the pack.
But there is no doubt Gibson’s ability to lead from the front is a welcome addition for the battles ahead.
Farke has already made it clear the odds are against Norwich returning to the top flight at the first attempt.
That is why the squad refresh was bold and deep. Gibson himself is not burdened by any of the baggage associated with a relegated team.
It will take time and many more games to see him reach his peak. There were some inevitable passages against Derby when you saw a player still making his way after a period in the football wilderness.
Yet it already looks who out of Zimmermann and Hanley wins the battle to start alongside him. Commencing at Rotherham United this weekend.
If Farke and Norwich can extract the player who was rated as one of the best prospects in this country when he first came on the scene then they have a very decent Championship operator.
But if Gibson can hold up his end of the bargain, appreciate the opportunity he has to revive his career in Norfolk, then Norwich can get his best footballing years.
There is indeed plenty at stake for both parties.