The £500,000 acquisition of the hitherto unheralded Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson in January 2012 represented Everton’s first cash purchase in a staggering 28 months. If it set few Evertonian pulses racing at first, the Irishman quickly set about proving his doubters wrong.

A product of Manchester United’s famed youth academy, Gibson found opportunities difficult to come by at Old Trafford. In seven years he made just 14 Premier League starts, but showed promise in loan spells at United’s feeder club, Royal Antwerp, and Wolves. During his loan spell at Molineux in the 2007/08 season he earned his first Republic of Ireland caps.

Nevertheless, with his club career stagnating he was urged by Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni to leave United to further his career. A transfer to Sunderland was agreed in summer 2011 but fell down over personal terms. Six months later he joined Everton for an undisclosed fee, thought to be worth just £500,000. ‘I can see a hunger,’ said David Moyes. ‘He is young and wants to prove himself.’

A steady rather than spectacular player, Gibson sits in front of the Everton back four, keeping play moving and allowing other more expressive players, such as Marouane Fellaini, to flourish. His passing is crisp and accurate – he gets and gives and moves into space and continues the shift up the pitch – and his presence immediately provided a solidity previously lacking in the Everton midfield. He possesses a fierce shot, and his deflected effort from the edge of the penalty area brought a memorable victory against Manchester City a month after his arrival. At the time of joining Everton Gibson had gone 20 months without appearing on the losing side in a league match (for Manchester United). Remarkably, he extended this record until beyond the end of his debut season at Everton. 

‘I have always liked Darron and thought there was something there,’ Moyes told journalists in an early assessment of the player. ‘It is going to take time and there is more to come. He probably needs a wee bit of the treatment as well. He will need to get whipped a couple of times. I am sure he has had that with his previous manager as well. We will try to get him to be a bit braver in a lot of the things he does.’