Paul Hyland: Darron Gibson is a timely lesson for Raheem Sterling
FOR those who believe that Raheem Sterling is a money-grabbing, badly advised, pampered and privileged young fool, a quick look at Darron Gibson's career statistics provides some balance.
After viewing the number of games he has played, you might wonder what exactly Gibson is for. What does he do?
He has a medical record as long as his often downcast face and a bulletin announcing his fitness is as rare as a corncrake.
But Gibson has every reason to be downbeat, it has to be said. The latest medical report from Goodison means that this season is in the bin and he must face up to another period of quiet torture.
The break in a bone in his foot comes after an endless series of setbacks associated with the cruciate knee injury he sustained playing for Ireland against Kazakhstan in October, 2013.
His Manchester United career was marked by long spells of inactivity and the only time he had a sustained run of games since he left Derry was in Belgium on loan to Royal Antwerp and subsequently at Molineux on another temporary release from Old Trafford.
He played 31 times for Antwerp in the 2006/7 season, the same number of Premier League appearances he managed for Manchester United before he left for Everton seven years after he arrived. Only 14 were starts, the rest as a substitute.
In three seasons with the Toffees, Gibson has started 28 Premier League games which actually isn't bad given the fact that a huge chunk of his time there has been spent with doctors and phsyios.
At every point in the important years of Gibson's professional career, great promise has been secondary to injury.
A sparkling spell in under-age football marked him in the same way Sterling stood out from the herd but who could have predicted that Gibson's potential would be complicated by a delicate physiology and pure bad luck.
His talent meant that Gibson had no real choice but to follow the path chosen for him. If fate had sent him in a different direction, he might still be living and working in Derry. His pension might have even survived austerity.
Once committed to a sporting life, he needed to pack away the cash as quickly as possible and while he doesn't have the salary Sterling seems to want, he has earned enough to be comfortable for the rest of his days.
Not so long ago, Gibson dug in his heels when Alex Ferguson pointed him towards Sunderland and there were mutterings at the time in line with the criticism Sterling has been dealing with.
Who does Gibson think he is making demands when he has hardly kicked a ball in anger in his career? But he was right. He was protecting himself and his future by holding out for something better.
Sterling could fall over in a heap on Wednesday in Liverpool's FA Cup quarter-final replay against Blackburn and never play again. His life could become as Gibson's is. Rehab to recovery and then back in rehab with a new injury to worry about.
At least this one is a bone break and it will mend. He may be fit in time for Ireland's game against Scotland but pre-season will be Gibson's priority. Fingers crossed.