Fullback. Quite an awkward position for a player to become, the sort of position that seems there just to fill numbers. It isn’t the most glamorous of positions, Jamie Carragher once described a fullback as either a failed centreback, or a failed winger on Monday Night Football, in the presence of one of England’s best ever full backs, Gary Neville. Gary seemed to laugh the comments off, but I’m sure he went to bed that night, thinking back on his career, as illustrious as it was, on how different it would have been if he had become a centre-half, the position he initially started his football career at with Manchester United’s youth system, but was shunted out to the right side due to his lack of height, which could have been the cause of his ‘failure’ of being a centreback. There are however exceptions to his universal height rule such as Gary Medel, measuring out at 5’7, played at the heart of the Chillian defence in the 2014 World Cup, and played very well and earned himself a move to Inter Milan from Cardiff City. England have had amazing left backs throughout their history such as hardman Stuart Pearce and Ashley Cole, who was the world’s best left back at one point. Currently they have an array of talent such as Baines, Shaw and Betrand, but two players who can hardly get a sniff are Gibbs and more remarkably, Aaron Cresswell.
Born in Merseyside, Aaron Cresswell started his career at Liverpool’s youth from 2003 to 2005, when he was released and joined Tranmere Rovers’ youth team from 2005 to 2008, when he was signed his first contract with the North West club. He impressed on his debut for the club, although he couldn’t prevent a loss in his first game, Tranmere losing 1-0 to MK Dons in League 1. He stayed in and out of the team and was offered a new contract by the club in 2011 by rejected the contract with the then manager Les Parry said “Aaron has got four or five Championship clubs trying to sign him, if I had to guess I would say Aaron might be leaving us this summer.” Cresswell then joined Championship side Ipswich Town for a disclosed fee on a 3 year deal. He progress further with Ipswich, being their player of the year in 2012 and also being included in the PFA Championship team of the year for 13/14. This breakout season as such, attracted the interest of many Premier League teams such as West Brom, West Ham and Aston Villa. Eventually he joined The Hammers in a 3.75m deal and had a sublime season for West Ham, playing all 38 league games and all 3 of their FA Cup games. Following these performances, he was voted as WHU Player’s player of the year as well as Hammer of the Year for 2014/2015. Some of Cresswell’s strengths are his blistering pace, crossing and his dead ball ability, showcasing this with a peach of a freekick against Stoke City. He needs to improve on his tackling however. He scored 2 goals and accumulated 4 assists last season, also making 3.9 clearances a game and 0.9 key passes made in a game on average.
Kieran Gibbs’ footballing story at Wimbledon in 2001 until 2004 when the club disbanded and become MK Dons, he was drafted and brought in by the Arsenal youth academy in later that year. He started as a left winger and central midfielder in his early days and stayed with the youth team for 3 years and then in 2007, he signed his first ever professional contract with Arsenal in September of that year, making a few appearances in the league cup before getting loaned out to second tier side Norwich City where he got more regular playing time, mainly as a winger. Upon returning back to Arsenal, Gibbs were more and more being used in the left back role, due to Gael Clichy’s persistent and niggly injuries, Kieran got more playing time. As Clichy’s injury problems prolonged and reoccured, Gibbs slowly became a fan favorite with the Arsenal faithful due to the passion he showed whilst playing, and when Gael Clichy was sold to Manchester City, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Kieran would would be Arsenal’s first choice left back. His progress steadily carried on and was soon rewarded with a new contract in 2012, although his progress has been stilted in recent years due to injures and the frequent nature of his injuries, meaning he is hardly fit enough to ever make it in the England team which is a shame, as he has impressed when representing the Three Lions. Strengths in Gibbs’ game are his passing and his tackling although something that he lacks is good quality crosses, something you thought he would have picked up from training with Bacary Sagna for so many years. Last season, on average he made 2 tackles and 2.5 interceptions a game as well as boasting a 81.7% pass accuracy in the Premier League.
Both players have progressed significantly and if both stay injury free, especially Gibbs, they can become great England players.