Yesterday morning a video emerged on social media showing Darron Gibson making comments about the commitment of other Sunderland players, in the wake of our 5-0 thrashing at the hands of a Celtic reserve team on Saturday afternoon.
Though we can all agree that players are entitled to relax and have a few drinks, this conduct is completely unacceptable.
Gibson may of course have a point about individuals being present at the club who don’t care, but making these claims to fans while drunk is itself wholly unprofessional behaviour. While Gibson is bemoaning the lack of commitment and professionalism of his fellow players, he appears completely unaware how hypocritical his comments are and how poorly it reflects upon the togetherness and discipline of the squad, less than a week before the season starts.
Yet there seem to be people who are not only content that Gibson was making a point with validity, but that there was little wrong with the way in which he did it.
While most have had a moan about work over a few drinks, everyone knows it is unprofessional and foolish to rant to customers, strangers or those who may inform your superiors. As a footballer, Gibson is both blessed and cursed with prominence in the public eye and given this reality he should be aware of how damaging such outbursts can be. Now he was perfectly within his rights to voice frustration at the result, apologise for the team performance and of course defend his own commitment when questioned. But it is simply unacceptable to bad mouth his team mates and label the club he plays for as “f***ing sh**” to fans, while conducting himself inexcusably and demonstrating a complete disregard for his own physical condition, less than a week before the season starts.
And though his comments are bad enough, his drunken state and the threat that he makes towards one of the men cannot be excused. While Gibson may have been frustrated at the attention he was receiving and the negative comments coming his way, one would have guessed that - as an experienced ‘professional’ - he could have expected this kind of attention just hours after such a woeful team display, particularly given the state he was in.
Former Sunderland player and captain Michael Gray went to Gibson’s defence on Twitter, claiming that Gibson was not on duty and that his comments were honest and well said. While Gibson’s statements may have been honest - though even this is not clear - the suggestion that Gibson is free to act how he pleases and say what he likes so long as he is not on official club duty, is bordering on the absurd. There is a code of conduct involved in almost any job these days and when you are an employee, it is not only your actions during your hours of work which can be taken into account. Given the huge public interest, which facilitates the lucrative nature of the role, professional football should be a lifestyle and Gibson has a responsibility to represent the club in a responsible way whenever he is in the public eye.
Furthermore, it is not Darron Gibson’s place to illuminate the problems behind the scenes for the wider public. He is not the manager, nor is he the captain, so he had no right to make comments of this nature even in any setting, let alone while drunk in a hotel bar on a Saturday night. As an employee, Gibson has an obligation to represent Sunderland in a positive way in public. If he has issues with the commitment of certain players, he should be communicating with management and confronting the players in question in the privacy of training and team sessions. Maybe he already has, but to go any further is way beyond his remit. I know we want players who care, but this shows nothing but a petulant hypocrite on a foul mouthed drunken tirade, moaning to fans about his colleagues lacking professionalism while he brings his own name and the clubs into disrepute.
We all want the culture of noncommittal players to change. But surely the best way to confront this toxic and unprofessional culture at the club is not a drunk Darron Gibson slagging off his teammates to fans following a 5-0 loss. I’m not asking him to be a saint, I’m not saying he shouldn’t drink, or that he should refrain from visiting bars and pubs on the evening of a defeat. But he has to be smarter, more responsible and save his supposedly honest and constructive comments for the right people, in the right place at the right time.
Oh, and don’t say “we’re f***ing sh**”, don’t accuse your team mates of not being committed in public and don’t threaten to punch people. I know, these harsh standards of behaviour we impose on footballers really aren’t fair are they?
In any case, if Darron Gibson is an example of one of the more professional and committed players in this squad, then god help us all.