Less than a month after celebrating his 20th birthday Kieran Gibbs is now ‘ready to play' for Fabio Capello's England side, according to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.' The starlet is one of a number of young prodigies coming through the ranks at the Emirates, as Wenger's conveyor belt of talent shows no signs of slowing down.
After starting his career at Wimbledon, Gibbs moved across the city in 2004 when his parent club were franchised to the MK Dons. In his earlier days he occupied various positions including central and left midfield, before eventually establishing himself as a left-back.
During 2006 he featured regularly for the U-18's and reserve side, his stellar performances earned him a professional contract in September 2007 and he was quickly placed in Arsenal's UEFA Champions League squad for the 2007/08 campaign. The youngster did not have to wait much longer for his first team debut, coming on as second-half substitute against Sheffield United in the League Cup.
Gibbs made another substitute appearance against Blackburn Rovers in the quarter-final of the same competition. Then in January 2008 he agreed to be loaned out to Championship side Norwich City for the remainder of the season in a bid to gain more first-team experience. He impressed everybody at Carrow Road with his dymanic displays in just seven games at the club.
Wenger was in no doubt as to the talents of the then 18 year-old, describing him as a ‘little Ryan Giggs' and he featured in every round of the League Cup in the 2008/09 season, before they lost to Burnley at the quarter-final stage. His big break came in February this year, in none other than the North London derby against arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur when Gael Clichy was forced off with an injury.
He subsequently kept his place for UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash with Spanish side Villarreal, as Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners. Once again, Gibbs received praise from his manager for nullifying the threat posed by former Gunner, Robert Pires. The FA Cup semi-final tie against Chelsea at Wembley proved a bittersweet occasion for Gibbs, as he set up the opening goal for Theo Walcott before eventually losing the game 2-1.
Despite a costly mistake against Manchester United in the last four of the UEFA Champions League, he had clearly caught the eye of England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce and was duly selected for the European Championships in Sweden. His first goals at that level soon arrived, when he netted a brace in a 7-0 demolition over Azerbaijan. Pearce has since expressed his admiration for Gibbs, describing him as "an exceptional talent" as he helped them to a runners-up medal.
"I watched Kieran at Liverpool (in the 4-4 draw in April 2009). He had a shaky ten minutes but he played his way out of it and still wanted possession. He was unflustered. As a manager, you see that. It was maturity beyond his years."
Following a summer in which he stamped his authority in the international set-up, Gibbs continued his form into the start of the 2009/10 season. He lined-up for Arsenal in their first home match of the season against Portsmouth, lasting the full 90 minutes in their 4-1 victory.
His most recent outing for the first-team came against Premier League giants Liverpool in the fourth round of the League Cup, where he was awarded with man of the match in the 2-1 win. He also received a glowing reference from Wenger in the post match press-conference. "Gibbs will get more games and if Capello asks me for my opinion, I will give him a very positive one. I believe he is ready to step up to the first team, he has exceptional quality."
And with Capello's policy of giving young players a chance, who is to say that Gibbs will not line-up for England at some point before the 2010 FIFA World Cup?