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Saturday 18 August 2018

Gilbert has high Hoops

AS A Londoner, and a former Arsenal player, Kerrea Gilbert was more than an interested spectator when the Gunners played their hearts out but still went out of the Champions League in midweek.

More than that, it's not so long ago that the defender was playing under Arsene Wenger in the Champions League, and last week he made a bit of history with his league debut for Shamrock Rovers against Drogheda United, as he became only the third player to come to the League of Ireland having played in the group stages of the Champions League (Jeff Kenna and Keith Gillespie were the others).

For now, the London-born player is focused on the job of helping Shamrock Rovers meet their domestic and European expectations this season, but in the long-term Gilbert wants to get back to where he once was, playing for Arsenal against clubs like Ajax and Olympiakos in the Champions League.

"I have played at a very high level and I feel I can get myself back there again in the future," Gilbert told the Evening Herald as he prepared to make his home league debut for Rovers against Monaghan United tonight. "I was playing in the Champions League for Arsenal when I was young, I am a better player now as well as being more mature.

Champions

"If I did it before -- playing in the Premier League and the Champions League -- then I see no reason why I can't do it again," added Gilbert, who joined Rovers from Yeovil Town earlier this year.

He's already bought into Rovers and can't escape football as he's living in Tallaght.

"I didn't know much about the league in Ireland before I came over, but I'm learning all the time. I already know that Bohemians is the big derby game for us, the one we have to win, as the fans have told me," he joked.

"I know this season will be a hard one for us because we are the champions, every team that comes to play us, especially here at Tallaght, will see it as a cup final."

Gilbert got into the Arsenal side early in the 2005/06 season, making appearances in the Carling Cup, FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League within the space of a few weeks, though a highlight was his run-out in the Champions League, as a sub for Lauren in a 0-0 draw at home to Ajax.

He made nine appearances for the Gunners but his season was ended prematurely when he was injured in the first half of a Premier League game at home to West Ham and, despite loan spells at places like Cardiff and Leicester, his Arsenal career was almost over, with just three more games for the Gunners after his injury.

Most recently he was playing in League One for Yeovil, but then came the chance to come to Ireland. Gilbert's move came about when former Arsenal players Graham Barrett and Paolo Vernazza, now working as agents, recommended a move to Dublin. "I had seen Shamrock Rovers play Tottenham in Europe last year, I knew the club had won the league two years running so I was willing to give it a go," he says.

Since that breakthrough with Arsenal in 2005, Gilbert's career has failed to take off in the way he'd hoped.

"I've had a lot of injuries over the last while so hopefully I can stay injury-free and do really well for Shamrock Rovers," he says.

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