best of 2023

The 42's Best of 2023: Darron Gibson's addiction, recovery, and the moment his life changed

Darron Gibson welcomed David Sneyd into his home to share a struggle that few people knew about.

As we close the book on the sporting year and get ready for another massive one, we’re looking back on some of our favourite pieces of sportswriting published on The 42 in 2023.

Today: former Manchester United, Everton, and Republic of Ireland star Darron Gibson welcomed David Sneyd into his home to share a struggle that few people knew about.

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DARRON GIBSON IS sitting in the same spot on the couch where he was forced to confront the sleeping pill addiction that had slowly consumed his life over much of the past decade.

It was a year ago this month that he came around from a seizure to find two paramedics standing in front of him in the living room.

He had no clue why they were there.

One minute he was watching football on TV with his wife Danielle and the next she was crying beside him.

The tears couldn’t cover the fear in her eyes.

“I hadn’t taken any sleeping tablets at that point in the day,” Gibson says. “But then…”

A blackness.

He describes the moment as it was later re-told to him; how he began to foam at the mouth and veins bulged in his neck, face and head.

He re-enacts how his entire body stiffened out straight on the couch before violently flinging backwards. As he does so, there are reminders on either side of him of the life he almost lost.

Through the window you can see the sets of goals with dozens of footballs that his nine-year-old son Reggie and 14-year-old daughter Evie enjoy playing with in the back garden.

On the opposite wall is a picture of Gibson, Danielle and Evie in the back of the wedding car just after the ceremony 10 years ago.

Gibson is still on the couch. He sits back up and composes himself.

“I don’t even think I was functioning at that point. Looking back at pictures, I was grey, if I had of kept going I would have died. I was taking 12 to 14 sleeping tablets a night.

“I was rushed to hospital and I didn’t mention any sleeping tablets to anyone. Danielle knew I took them but she had no idea to what extent. I was good at hiding it. Sometimes I’d take them all at once when we’d be going to sleep and I’d say I was bringing up a drink of water for her.

“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to say now that I was in a bad way, but in the hospital I wasn’t telling anyone.”

Gibson had scans of his brain and heart to determine the cause of the seizure.

“They thought it was epilepsy but I knew it wasn’t. It was sleeping tablets, it had been going on for years by now.”

The results showed no obvious cause. “The doctor rang and said my brain and heart were fine.”

Danielle knew differently.

She had already seen some of the physical and emotional toll injury after injury had taken on her husband.

When he ruptured his cruciate knee ligament while on Ireland duty in October 2013 – 10 years ago last week – the downfall began. His body slowly gave way with numerous issues before a broken leg in October 2020, and the complications which followed when one of the 10 screws bolted inside became infected, led to his retirement a year later.

Danielle was there through it all.

“When I got back to the house, she asked me how I was feeling. I told her my body just felt sore,” Gibson says.

“Then she said it, ‘I know you’ve just been in hospital but if you take one more sleeping tablet me and the kids…’.”

Gibson stops. He looks to the ceiling and sighs as his eyes redden.

“Oh, fucking hell. She said, ‘Me and the kids are going to have to leave’.”

This was the moment that would lead to his life finally changing.

It should have come in 2018 when he stood in front of Judge Roger Elsey at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to his second drink-driving offence in three years.

But the addiction to sleeping tablets had taken a grip by then and not even the threat of prison could jolt him from the stupor.

Five minutes before he was due to be sentenced, Gibson and Danielle waited to be summoned when he asked his lawyer the likelihood of a custodial sentence.

It was 50-50, so Gibson was told to quickly remove all of his valuables and give them to Danielle.

He hugged and kissed her and said goodbye just in case.

“It was the worst feeling in my life. If I’d have gone to jail, I don’t know if I’d have survived,” he says.

“It was horrific but it was all my own fault. It could have been so much worse and when I think about what could have happened, I would never have been able to forgive myself. It’s a shit thing to do.”

Gibson was spared prison, handed a two-year community order, and banned from driving for 40 months.

“I hope this doesn’t sound like me looking for sympathy. I don’t want sympathy. I’m the one who made these terrible mistakes, if you do something wrong you deal with the consequences,” he says. 

“I’m talking about this now because I feel I’m in a place in my own life where I am able to. Hopefully it helps people understand the reasons for what happened.”


It is a little before 9am on the Tuesday after the Republic of Ireland have beaten Gibraltar 4-0 in their Euro 2024 qualifier in Faro.

The 42 has landed in Manchester Airport and Gibson is en route after doing the school run, a simple joy he can savour every day now that his licence has been returned.

His body is sore, though.

The previous Sunday, he lined out for a Manchester United XI against a Hibernian XI in the testimonial of his former Old Trafford youth teammate David Gray.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really looking forward to the match because of that fear of getting hurt again but as soon as I was in the changing room, surrounded by all the lads, I thought to myself, ‘I am actually buzzing to play in this now’. I hadn’t had that feeling for a long time. Holding the United shirt again, putting it on. There were so many memories going through my head, especially with that group.”

image3 Darron Gibson standing between maps of Derry and Manchester in his kitchen.

So he was never going to make up an excuse to avoid travelling to Edinburgh.

Gibson and Gray go way back, to their very earliest days at United when Gibson left Derry at 15 and was living with uncle Colm – his mother Liz’s brother – in Altrincham just a few miles from where his family home is now.

Even though he had digs with family, Gibson remembers it as “the loneliest I had been. For the first year and a half I didn’t speak. I trained, went to school, had dinner and went to my room. Conversation with me was like getting blood from a stone.”

That desire to fade into the background remained as his stature increased at United. He won the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Award for the club’s best young player in 2005, yet the most vivid and fondest memory from around that time is how he met Danielle.

Gray was with him when the pair spotted their old driving instructor Sue and made a beeline to say hello.

“Danielle was having a lesson,” Gibson remembers. “As soon as I got back to the digs I texted Sue and asked her if there was any chance I could have her number. She said she had to ask her.”

Danielle said yes, and their time together has been as rewarding as it has testing. The experiences they shared over the course of Gibson’s 17-year career were the catalyst for Danielle to forge her own. She spent four years training to become a psychotherapist, setting up her practice last year while previously working with female prisoners serving life in prison.

Gibson leads the way and Danielle is the one welcoming The 42 into their home before her own day’s work begins.

David Sneyd: You’ve said you’re happy now, does that make you think about other stages of your life and the kind of person you were before?

Darron Gibson: I was introverted growing up. I loved playing football and I loved my career. It was the other side of life I didn’t like; the publicity, being noticed all the time. I understand that it’s part of football and giving back to fans, but nowadays few people recognise me and I’m more relaxed. When I was playing I very rarely saw my kids. Danielle did everything, now I have been able to be involved in their lives. Taking them to school, to their friends, to football, all that has made me a happier person. When I was playing, my anxiety was a problem. I had a lot of demons when I was playing and now I don’t.

DS: Did those demons only emerge when you started your career or were they with you before that?

DG: My way of coping with things from a very early age was to just shut everything away. I did not speak about anything. I’d go into my shell rather than now when I know should have been talking to people and letting them know how I was feeling. The reason I’m happier now is that I’m not hiding. I’m living a normal life with Danielle and the kids. I’m there with them. I’m not taking sleeping tablets, I don’t have a drink problem. The anxiety and depression stuff is all gone.

republic-of-ireland-footballer-darron-gibson-leaving-south-tyneside-magistrates-court-where-he-was-given-a-two-year-community-order-and-banned-from-driving-for-40-months-after-he-admitted-drink-drivi Darron Gibson with his wife Danielle leaving South Tyneside Magistrates' Court. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

DS: Do you think your family are proud of you?

DG: Danielle and the kids, or back home in Derry?

DS: Both.

DG: Danielle and the kids are, they tell me all the time.

DS: What about at home, your parents and sisters [he has two younger and one older sibling]?

DG: I hope they are. I think they are. Not opening up to people was a big thing for my family, it was not something we done growing up. It was not that I couldn’t talk to my Ma and Da, but I just didn’t talk to them. When I think back now to where my head was growing up, I would never want my kids to be that way. I would want them to talk to me regardless of how bad it is, not keeping how they are feeling all inside. I want them to speak to me and not be scared of speaking. I’ve been through a lot of shit and learned from it so hopefully my kids will end up coming out better for the mistakes that I’ve made.

DS: Evie is 14, she is growing up and beginning to learn about the world around her, and about her father.

DG: Exactly, I said to her if she ever wants to ask me anything or talk to me about things that I will tell her the truth. If ever she is in trouble or needs me, just tell the truth and everything will be alright. I can’t say that to her and give her that promise and not be honest with her too. I want to bring my kids up in that way, I don’t want them to think I’ve got secrets or I’m hiding anything from them in the hope they will never hide anything from me. I never spoke to anyone about how I was feeling before, it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve stopped brushing things under the carpet hoping how I was feeling would go away. Danielle understands the mental health stuff. I still find it hard to do [to talk] but I do feel better.” 


Ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder Darron Gibson has been handed a two-year community order and banned from driving for 40 months at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court after he admitted drink driving. District Judge Roger Elsey did not jail him after hearing the former Sunderland player was going through a number of psychological issues at the time, for which he is now receiving treatment.

The 30-year-old was three times over the limit when he smashed his Mercedes 4×4 into parked cars on St Patrick’s Day, South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court was told last month. The incident in Sunderland followed a serious collision in 2015 when his car hit three cyclists who were fixing a wheel on the pavement.

Gibson, who played for Manchester United, Everton and Sunderland, knocked a taxi’s wing mirror off in West Boldon in the latest incident, but carried on and smashed into parked cars in Dovedale Road, Fulwell, Sunderland, as he drove to the club’s training ground. His grey 4×4 ended up on the pavement and the road was strewn with debris.

Press Association – 21 May, 2018

David Sneyd: Were the drink driving incidents part of not dealing with your issues; what were the circumstances?

Darron Gibson: I’ll be honest, I was nervous and apprehensive about doing an interview because part of the reason I am happier now is that no one knows what goes on in my life anymore. I’m talking about this now because I feel I’m in a place in my own life where I am able to. Hopefully it helps people understand the reasons for what happened rather than just thinking, ‘Oh, he’s got a drink problem, he’s done it twice and crashed the car’. At Sunderland, mentally I was struggling. I had torn my groin off the bone and needed it to be pinned back. I did 12 weeks of rehab. Danielle and the kids stayed in Manchester when I signed and that was a lot harder than I thought. I started taking more and more sleeping tablets. I remember the day before [the accident] like it was yesterday, the day before St Patrick’s Day.

DS: Yeah, reading the news reports that is made clear.

DG: Yeah, St Patrick’s Day, I’m Irish, so I must have been out drinking — that wasn’t it. I started with one tablet, two, then four. Eventually more and more. That night I was in an apartment on my own after training. At that stage I was only there maybe once a week cause I’d drive for four hours to come home and see Danielle and the kids then travel back at 10.30 at night. I’d be on my own and use sleeping tablets. The night in March I had one bottle of Fanta, a normal sized one, a full bottle of vodka with the wrapper still on it cause I was given it for my birthday the previous October. I thought, ‘Fuck it, split the Fanta into two glasses and vodka in each of them, that will get me to sleep’. I drank the two glasses and also took tablets. The next thing I remember is being in the back of a police van with handcuffs on.

DS: You can’t remember waking up the next morning and making the decision to drive?

DG: I honestly can’t. I was still aware enough and conscious enough to drive the car. The accident happened at 8am, I was arrested and taken to hospital, then back to a police cell and released at 4am the following morning. I went back to the apartment and there was an empty box of sleeping tablets – maybe 20 tablets gone.

DS: Enough to overdose?

DG: I could have. Jeez, yeah, but I’m more lucky that I didn’t . . .

DS: Kill someone?

DG: Yeah. It could have been so much worse. I would never have been able to forgive myself. I’m just thankful that no one got hurt.

DS: You said it was 50-50 to go to prison.

DG: I don’t know if I’d have survived. It was the worst feeling in my life and it was all my own fault.

DS: There will be people reading who might have lost loved ones and friends or people they knew because of drunk driving.

DG: I hope this doesn’t sound like me looking for sympathy. I don’t want sympathy or to make excuses. I’m the one who made these terrible mistakes. If you do something wrong, you deal with the consequences. I’ve tried to deal with them and I’ve been punished for them. I’ve paid the price for what I done both times.

DS: You continued to take sleeping tablets after this?

DG: I went to see a therapist after the court case. Danielle was there the whole way through it. I didn’t know at the time that I had been suffering with severe anxiety and nearly being depressed. That’s what I was diagnosed with. But no one knew about the sleeping tablets, everyone thought I had a drink problem. I knew I didn’t. It was the sleeping tablets and it carried on at Wigan and Salford.

DS: So even after the contract terminated at Sunderland and you were going to therapy, you were still taking them? How were you getting them? When did it start?

DG: That first injury was the start of the downfall.

DS: At Everton, the cruciate knee ligament injury when you were back playing for Ireland?

DG: Yeah. Doctors at clubs didn’t want to give them to you… then I would end up getting hold of them myself, through someone else. I got them and the blame is on me. The sleeping tablets were a way out for me not to have to go to bed and be lying awake thinking about loads of shit that was going on. I want to talk about it now because I’m doing it to gain anything from this, other than hoping it could stop a young lad taking sleeping tablets or help them understand that it’s good to talk to even one person. Sleeping tablets are bad news and they are a big issue.

DS: Dele Alli recently opened up about his addiction too and how checked into rehab.

DG: I saw it. I felt horrendous for him, some of the stuff he’s been through and then almost being forced to come out and say it because a newspaper had found out about going to rehab and were going to reveal it. It’s not nice that something like that can be used against him, it’s shocking. The person should be allowed be ready to do it.

DS: And you are now after the seizure and coming clean to Danielle and being up front?

DG: Yeah, we’ve been more open with each other basically and she said it was right to discuss it. I’m comfortable with letting people know the extent of what has gone on. I know people might still think bad things about me and have bad opinions and they are fully entitled to. But I am at the stage now where once it doesn’t affect Danielle and the kids and they’re OK, that is my priority.


The 42 shows Darron Gibson a photograph from February 2010, his second full season as part of the Manchester United first-team squad.

Out in front, holding a player of the month trophy for January and another one to recognise the feat of scoring 20 Premier League goals, is striker Wayne Rooney.

Wes Brown and Darren Fletcher are there too – friends who Gibson caught up with at Gray’s testimonial at the weekend.

darron-gibson-daughter-manchester-united-fc-manchester-united-fc-old-trafford-manchester-england-22-may-2011 Darron Gibson with daughter Evie after lifting the Premier League with United in 2011. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Jonny Evans, who he would first come across regularly in Belfast Airport on Friday evenings from the age of around 12 when both would be heading off to trials, is beside Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, two of English football’s most decorated players.

Michael Carrick is behind Michael Owen. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Paul Scholes are beaming on the left side with Nani, Anderson and Dimitar Berbatov.

Park Ji Sung is in between Antonio Valencia and the Da Silva twins, Fabio and Rafael.

Cristiano Ronaldo had departed for Real Madrid the previous summer.

There are a few faces – and names – not instantly recognisable. Mame Biram Diouf was the Senegal striker who would go on to play for Stoke City, and defender Ritchie De Laet would claim a league winners’ medal; not at United but during that incredible 2015/16 season when Leicester City shocked the world.

Alex Ferguson’s side had won the three previous titles in a row, not to mention the Champions League in 2008 when Gibson was playing under Mick McCarthy on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Gibson is still only 22 in the photo and has already made his senior international debut in 2007. He was at the centre of a sensitive political issue when he became the first player to use the new eligibility rules to switch from Northern Ireland to the Republic.

This was all a long way from the seven-year-old boy in Derry who caught the attention of one of his uncles – he estimates his parents have around 16 siblings between them – by doing keepie-uppies with a tennis ball as a party trick in the garden after his sister’s christening.

Paul ‘Oxo’ McLaughlin set up a youth team called Holy Family FC to give his nephew an outlet and when he later took charge of Derry City reserves, Gibson was always by his side.

“I travelled everywhere with him in the car. From the age of about 10, we went up and down the country. I loved it, I felt part of the dressing room and would spend the whole game asking Oxo to just put me on.

“When I was around 14, he finally did. It was a friendly and he let me play the last 10 minutes. I remember going in for a one-on-one with the keeper, dinking the ball over him, and he absolutely smashed me. I flipped over him in the air and as soon as I landed let out a scream. I was crying straight away.

“Oxo ran over, ‘What’s wrong, what’s wrong?’ I told him it was my elbow. He just went, ‘Fuck, thank God for that, I thought it was your leg’.”

Gibson was just a little bit older than Reggie is now when his old school principal told him and his parents in a meeting that he was destined to be a footballer and should focus all of his energy on that.

“I wasn’t really paying attention until he said that. It’s not normally what you expect them to say,” Gibson says.

Collage Maker-24-Oct-2023-08-41-AM-1557 Gibson scores against Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League quarter final (top) and against Schalke in the semis the following season.

Now he has a room in his house, just off the kitchen where large maps of Derry and Manchester hang side by side on the wall, with some photos and mementos of his own.

There are two framed United jerseys with his No 28 and an Everton one with No 4. Five Ireland caps recognising his 27 appearances have just arrived from the FAI a few days earlier.

“All the rest of my Ireland stuff is at home with my Ma and Da. To be honest, Danielle wanted to do this room up,” he says. 

In the corner, under a framed photograph of the 2010/11 United squad are two unopened bottles of champagne given to the players when they celebrated lifting the Premier League title. Gibson made sure to keep his. “The medal is in a vault,” he points out, explaining how he and his family were subject to two attempted break-ins in their previous home.

“It’s quieter here.”

His League Cup medals from ’09 and ’10 dangle over a shelf, side by side with some of Reggie’s, including a recent U10s West Timperley District Cup winners’ one.

There are no framed action shots of his goals in the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich in 2010 or from the semi-final against Schalke the following year. There is one of Nelson Mandela when they went to South Africa on pre-season in 2006, and with the Premier League trophy alongside his friends Fletcher, Evans and Rooney.

There are also some photo albums, one of which has a black leather cover and gold lettering on the front: Manchester United, Champions of England 2010-11. Darron Gibson. 28.

“Some good memories to be fair. As a group, the best I’ve been involved in,” he says, beginning to flick through. “The Everton squad I went to was very good too.

“That’s a good picture, me and Jonny. Jeez, we’re young. I have hair… there’s a nice one of me and Evie here somewhere,” Gibson continues.

“It’s funny, Reggie goes through this book and when he sees this picture he’s fuming because it’s Evie in it and not him. The same with the wedding car one. He’ll be fuming, ‘Why am I not in there?’ ‘Because you weren’t born yet, buddy!’”

Gibson smiles and keeps the page open for a bit longer.

ireland-coach-giovanni-trapattoni-right-looks-to-his-team-player-darron-gibson-left-during-the-official-training-on-the-eve-of-the-euro-2012-soccer-championship-group-c-match-between-spain-and-ire Gibson and Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni during Euro 2012. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

David Sneyd: You look really happy in that photo and in the one I showed you earlier.

Darron Gibson: I was happy. I did enjoy playing but I am a lot happier now. I probably looked angry all the time when I played. There was always a lot of pressure at United. It was enjoyable but it was hard, it was tough. Maybe I’m happier now because I’ve not got any of that same stress anymore, the anxiety and worrying about people, worrying about getting injured and how if you didn’t keep striving, someone better would be there to take your place. I felt that way the whole way through at United. One of the early pre-season trips, there were about 200 people at the hotel. All us young lads got off the bus and we walked past without signing autographs because we knew Wazza, Giggsy, Scholesy, Ronaldo and these players were coming behind. The gaffer pulled us, ‘Oi, where the fuck are youse lot going? Get back there and don’t go in the hotel until every one of those fans has got an autograph’. But it wasn’t because I didn’t care, I just thought they wouldn’t want mine. Something similar happened with Ireland actually.

DS: When? What happened?

DG: At the Euros [in 2012]. After training one of the days, a Sky Sports reporter asked for an interview as I walking off. He only asked if I could give five minutes, but I just said, ‘Nah, not really’. Robbie Keane pulled me about it. He said the reporter told him I came across like a knob. I just said I didn’t do it cause I wasn’t playing. The lads playing were there with me, I thought they would be the ones fans want to hear from, and that no one wants to hear what I have to say.

DS: It was a difficult relationship with Giovanni Trapattoni. A lot of people will remember you for choosing not to play for Ireland after you didn’t get any minutes at the Euros.

DG: Every time this comes up, I still speak to Sheasy (John O’Shea) about it. I was one of the best players in training every day for the whole camp. When I didn’t play in the first two games [against Croatia and Spain] and we had one left [against Italy], I thought there was a chance [because Ireland had been knocked out]. I had a chat with the manager and Marco [Tardelli] did the talking. They told me I was one for the future. I was 24. I lost my head, I was embarrassed. What the fuck is going on? In my head I’m thinking, ‘If he’s not going to play me, what is the point?’

DS: Would you not have just bit the bullet and bided your time to play?

DG: I should have. I was stubborn. Looking at it all now, where my head is now, of course I should have bit the bullet. I was embarrassed, my ego hurt a bit maybe. I thought I should have been playing.

DS: The rumour in Poland was you didn’t play at the Euros because you and other players stayed out drinking after one of the games.

DG: There was a night out but it had been allowed and it was before the Euros. We were allowed out to a certain time. Some left, and I stayed out, I won’t say who with. But if I was told that was the reason for not playing, I would have held my hands up and said, ‘You know what, it’s my own fault, I was fucking stupid and I’ll take my medicine’. But they were telling me it was because I was one for the future.

march-15-2015-liverpool-united-kingdom-darron-gibson-of-everton-gees-up-the-crowd-everton-vs-newcastle-united-barclays-premier-league-goodison-park-liverpool-15032015-pic-philip-ol Gibson (right) celebrates with Everton teammates in 2015. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

By that point, Gibson was a regular in the Premier League with Everton, a move that came about just after he had completed part of his warm-up before training with United one Thursday morning.

“I had done some stuff in the gym, put my boots on and started doing the rondo box, some keep ball. I was told the gaffer wanted to see me back inside by the bootroom. I jogged back in, the gaffer was there sitting down getting ready to go out. There was no one else there. He said Everton were in for me and wanted me.

“I asked him what he thought and he said I should go for it. I just said, ‘What, like, now?’ The gaffer said, ‘Yeah, now, give your agent a ring and you can go now’. I was like, ‘Alright, sound’.

“We shook hands, I said ‘Thanks very much’, took off my boots, got changed, drove to Everton’s training ground, and David Moyes said the deal needed to be done by 12 to play that weekend against Aston Villa. The medical was about an hour and that was it done.

“It worked out better that way. It was quick, there were no bad feelings or intentions. It was fair enough.”

The first season-and-a-half at Everton saw Gibson thrive and emerge as a force in a Premier League midfield. When Moyes left to take the United job in the summer of 2013, Roberto Martinez took over. The Spaniard was in the Aviva Stadium to see Gibson return to the international set-up but a cruciate injury in the first half was, as he says himself, “the start of the downfall”.

He took more and more sleeping tablets, suffered more injuries and his career drifted as circumstances took their toll. His problems worsened and, as he has already covered, faced the consequences.

When he joined Sunderland, he was filmed criticising some teammates while drinking in a hotel after a 5-0 defeat to Celtic in pre-season.

“Again, a stupid situation that I put myself in,” he says.

sunderlands-darron-gibson Gibson during his time at Sunderland. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A move to Wigan Athletic followed his Sunderland contract being terminated, then a spell at Salford City that would ultimately prove to be the last of his career following a dreadful leg break in October 2020.

With hospitals under immense strain during the pandemic, getting the necessary surgery to save his career proved difficult, especially after he contracted Covid-19 for a second time in the build up to the injury.

Eventually a surgeon agreed to operate, but because of his positive test and the concerns for his breathing if they used an anesthetic, Gibson was instead given an epidural.

“I couldn’t feel anything but I woke up during it and could see them operating,” he recalls.

Danielle nursed Gibson back to health, helping him in the bath and toilet for the weeks afterwards.

“Mentally, that injury killed me. Any noise I heard, it would make me think back to the noise I heard on the pitch when my leg snapped. That sound is there, yeah.”

Yet he made it back for the last game of that season before eventually parting ways. That summer, along with another former teammate and close friend Glenn Whelan, he lined out for Wythenshawe, Danielle’s local non-league club.

“Whelo got sent off — he was last man and pulled him down,” Gibson laughs. “After the game, a bubble formed on my ankle,” he continues, pulling up his jeans to show the dark mark that remains.

image5 (1) Gibson in his back garden at home.

He got in touch with the surgeon who operated on his leg and had needed to insert 10 bolts throughout it to help the spiral break heal. One at the bottom got infected and all of the metalwork had to be removed, leaving holes in the bone that needed to heal. Another three months of recovery were required.

“That finished me off.”

The sleeping tablet addiction got worse, even after a year of finally coming to terms with his career ending, before the seizure on the couch changed everything.

Today is his 36th birthday and he can enjoy bringing Evie and Reggie to Old Trafford whenever they ask.

In the last six months, he has also been able to open up to friends about the true extent of his problems.

“I’m not hiding,” he repeats.

“Sometimes you don’t want to say stuff out loud and be vulnerable. It’s hard to do it but Danielle and the kids help every day. That is why I am doing this. I am just a lot more content now as a person than I ever was playing football.” 

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