Ben Gibson – A Love Letter

26/03/21

That Ben Gibson is quite good, so Andrew Kent decided to do some words about him.....

I have a strong affinity with left-footed players. Being a leftie myself, I always seem to gravitate towards them. From Darren Eadie in the mid nineties, through to Adam Drury in the noughties and moving on to Super Mario now. Heck, I even wanted to believe that Raymond De Waard could come good. So,the link of a left-footed Ben Gibson to Norwich piqued my interest.

Once the deal was done, interviews from Gibson gave the impression of a guy with a point to prove. A purposeful tone shone through. At that point, I had the feeling we had found a player who would make it here. Another to join the likes of Roberts, Drury, Huckerby, Holt and Hoolahan….maybe. But certainly a player who seemed to ‘get’ the club. Talk of the atmosphere around Colney and the people beyond the squad, gave me the sense that this was a player with the longer term on his mind and somewhere he could see himself beyond a solitary season.

His debut against soon-to-be Wayne Rooney’s Derby County didn’t bring the result we wanted, but showed a glimpse of the player we would come to see over the course of the season. Assured onthe ball, confident in his reading of the game and a solid pillar in central defence. It was the next game against Rotherham, which took place after an international break following a sticky start to theseason (sound familiar?!), where he took his position alongside Grant Hanley. This was the start of a beautiful relationship, which has been interrupted by a few injuries along the way, but one I would class as the best centre back pairing we have had since Mackay and Fleming graced the turf between 2001 – 2004. There are some similarities; a tough, no-nonsense Scot who would head back a mortar shell. A more graceful Northerner, who is better on the ball and reads the game well.

As time went on, the more everybody started to talk up his performances. He had taken to Farkeball so easily, it was like he’d been with us since 2017. Much has been made of his passing ability, especially his progressive vertical passing and the ease at which he seems to move the ball into attacking areas. The pass for Emi’s worldie at Ashton Gate was like watching a left-footed Beckham. He is often seen gliding over the halfway line with the ball, threading it through the opposition midfield to one of our attacking quartet. His passing is so good he could probably get a brick through a sieve.

However, I would argue it’s his reading of the game that is his most impressive attribute. He has averaged 1.6 interceptions per game across his 26 Championship appearances, while his tackles per game are down at 0.3 per game. Positionally, I would class him as one of the best defenders I have had the pleasure of watching since making my first visit to Carrow Road in 1991. As Paolo Maldini once said “ If I have to make a tackle, I have already made a mistake” so the numbers allied with my own feeling when watching him play is one of relative comfort and ease, both on the ball and off it.

As someone who has captained his boyhood side and been in the England squad, it’s easy to assume there would be an element of leadership within him, but watching the always-excellent City Views show moments of his vocality amongst the group. During the celebrations for Pukki’s opener vs Forest, you hear “Enjoy the goal and go again”, as he enters the picture, then he repeats “go again” as he congratulates the Finn. Something so simple and probably said 134850 times on a football
pitch by professionals, but it’s the sign of a guy who wants to do a professional job and demands everyone around him stays fully focused.

Another moment showcasing his influence is the celebration of Emi’s goal against Brentford; a goal against our (at the time) nearest rivals could have been a cause for mad celebration and joy, but in the aftermath Gibson can be seen speaking to Buendia, presumably on some sort of tactical/motivational topic. The guy just wants to win and keep winning.

And now, his season is over (according to all sources close to the club) and we face the final hurdle without him. Is it the end of the world? If you had to pick a time for this to happen, now would probably be it. 8 to go, job ALMOST done and he’ll be fit for pre-season. A pre-season that will see him sign permanently, once the job is done, and he’ll become a Premier League defender once again. It’s clear that’s where he belongs and I am so glad it will be in a Norwich team.

So, Benjamin James Gibson: the Middlesbrough Maldini, the Nunthorpe Nesta – you’ve turned out to be the player I thought you would be for us, and then some.

Lots of love,

Andrew

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