United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Gibson signs on as Ecks checks out

Posted by nickogs20 on July 15, 2009

Today was a day of contract resolution – and things only went half United’s way. Sir Alex Ferguson’s delight at Darron Gibson putting pen to paper on a new three-year contract was tempered by the news that Richard Eckersley had turned down the club’s offer of a new deal and instead exercised his right to move, as a free agent, to Premier League new boys Burnley.

United will be entitled to compensation for the loss of the Salford-born right-back as he is under the age of 24 – this is likely to be decided at a tribunal, with the two clubs valuations of the defender thought to differ by a sum in excess of £1m – but that will be of little consolation to Ferguson, who was said to be furious at losing the player.

Eckersley had been offered a two-year extension at Old Trafford, with the first season likely to be spent on loan at Queens Park Rangers, but when that loan switch fell through due to differences over where the 20 year-old would play, he was left with a big decision to make – sign the new deal, hope for another attractive loan proposition to come along but run the risk of potentially another season of reserve football, or act upon the serious interest from Burnley boss Owen Coyle and make the break from his boyhood club.

While the initial temptation in instances like this is to bemoan the player’s lack of patience and wonder how they could walk out on the club they love, there are a number of reasons why this move must have made sense to Eckersley. First and foremost is the competition for his favoured right-back position at United, with Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Gary Neville and Rafael da Silva all ahead of him in the pecking order. Second is the presence of the last name in that list in particular, with the exciting Brazilian, 16 months Eckersley’s junior, seemingly destined for great things and pencilled in as the long-term occupant of the right-back slot and heir to the number 2 shirt.

The third and final reason is something Eckersley alluded too in his first interview with Burnley’s official site – the experience of his elder brother Adam, who came through the ranks in similar fashion but left in January 2008.

“I’d been at United since I was nine, so it was a really hard decision to leave, but my family advised me.

“My brother was at United so I learnt from him and the mistakes he possibly made. It was tough, but I think I’ve done the right thing.”

Richard Eckersley - Burnley-bound

Richard Eckersley - Burnley-bound

Adam made just the one appearance for the United first team in late 2005 before spending most of the next two years on loan at Royal Antwerp, Brondby, Barnsley and Port Vale, eventually joining the latter club permanently 18 months ago due to, in his own words, being “sick and tired of waiting around, not getting an opportunity to play”. It seems quite likely that his younger sibling feared a similar spell on the loan merry-go-round and, when offered an opportunity with a Premier League side, took the plunge.

A combative, attacking right-back comfortable on the other flank and also capable of doing a job in the centre of defence, Eckersley made four appearances for the first team last season, all as substitute, with his debut coming in the FA Cup Fourth Round tie with Tottenham, where he replaced Fábio da Silva. He also picked up a League Cup winners’ medal as an unused substitute in March’s final against the same opposition.

Richard picked up further winners’ medals in the Champions Youth Cup (2007), Manchester Senior Cup (twice, 2008 and 2009) and Lancashire Senior Cup (2008), as well as an FA Youth Cup runners-up medal in 2007. In addition he made a total of fifty competitive reserve appearances – picking up the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award in 2007/08 – and a further 29 for the academy.

Richard has signed a four-year deal at Turf Moor and is likely to compete with fellow new recruit Tyrone Mears for playing time at right-back this season. While sharing Sir Alex’s disappointment at seeing him leave, we at United Youth obviously wish him all the best.

While the news of Eckersley’s departure came as something of a surprise, Darron Gibson committing himself to the club always seemed to be a likely outcome, with neither side seemingly being in any hurry to rush proceedings despite the Irishman being a free agent and attracting interest from other Premier League clubs. The 21 year-old made 14 first team appearances last term in something of a breakthrough campaign, and his inclusion in the travelling party for the upcoming pre-season tour of Asia illustrates the high regard he is held in by the coaching staff at Old Trafford.

With Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes another year older and doubts persisting over the fitness of Owen Hargreaves and the development of Anderson, 2009/10 offers Gibson a real chance to further establish himself as a serious option in the United engine room, and a new three-year pact on improved terms can only bolster his confidence as he bids to do so.

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