It's hard to believe that Kieran Gibbs is approaching his 31st birthday. Once touted as the next Ashley Cole, he was one of Arsene Wenger’s exciting prospects at Arsenal and won 10 England caps before joining West Brom in 2017.
His first season at The Hawthorns ended in relegation when Albion went through four managers — Tony Pulis, Gary Megson, Alan Pardew and Darren Moore — but yo-yo clubs always bounce back and The Baggies are in the Premier League again, starting against Leicester City on Sunday.
Age and experience would make Gibbs a natural source of advice for Slaven Bilic’s inexperienced talents, such as Matheus Pereira, Romaine Sawyers and Grady Diangana, the last of whom was signed from West Ham last week.
Kieran Gibbs says young players are given much more freedom to express themselves
Thirty-year-old says individuals like Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana are allowed to thrive
However, the left back believes it is best to allow their youngsters to express themselves, not clutter minds.
‘The game has changed so much, even since I first broke in,’ said Gibbs. ‘Today’s players go on their own journeys, build their own brands. It’s more individual now and there is no way to stop that.
‘You need to let players who haven’t been in the Premier League evolve and learn for themselves. Football isn’t as regimented or robotic. Young, creative players change games all the time.
‘You can overdo the messages sometimes and then they might feel inhibited. If you just let them develop and realise for themselves, it can be more effective. You don’t want to put too much pressure on them.’
In terms of giving players freedom, there is an obvious contrast between Bilic and the manager who started the 2017-18 season — Tony Pulis — whose career was built another way.
Bilic has more in common with Gibbs’ first manager Wenger, according to the player.
Gibbs likened the approach of current boss Slaven Bilic (L) to former boss Arsenal Wenger (R)