There are always madcap stories in football. It wasn't too long ago that there were reports from The Telegraph that Sean Dyche ate worms! However, the breaking narrative that Ben Gibson is now training with Middlesbrough, despite being a Burnley player, is quite remarkable.
Gibson has been very unlucky. When he was brought in, it seemed like long-serving Ben Mee would depart. The former Manchester City defender was stalling on a new contract and was entering the final 12 months of his existing contract. Mee then signed a new deal which made him the highest paid player at the club. Suddenly, Gibson was arriving at the club on the back-foot.
Mee has been partnered with James Tarkowski for a long time; the two haven't been truly separated since Michael Keane made his move to Everton in 2017. It is remarkable than neither of the two defenders have suffered injuries or suspension.
There had been periods where both Mee and Tarkowski were well below the standard. The first half of the 2018-19 season was a prime example of this. Very few people were leaving the pitch with merit and Burnley's formidable defence had regressed into mush. Gibson made one Premier League start for the Clarets; he deserved more than that.
Nonetheless, as a professional footballer, it may seem somewhat unprofessional to refuse to train at your employer's base. Gibson was Middlesbrough's captain and leaders would not walk out on a situation with their tail between their legs. Still, from a human point-of-view, Gibson probably sees the past season-and-a-half as a wedge in his development as a player. It wasn't too long ago when the 27-year-old was being touted as a potential England international.
Gibson cost the Clarets a record £15-million. £15-million for one Premier League start in eighteen months is quite astonishing. This is when the board will look towards Sean Dyche to ask questions about how their budget is being spent. It is commonly noted that the powers that be appear to be overly cautious in splashing the cash.
£12-million for an injury-stricken Robbie Brady. £5-million for Nahki Wells, a player who never played more than ten minutes of a single Premier League match. £11-million for Matej Vydra, a player who never got a fair opportunity to impress. Those numbers add up. For all of Dyche's incredible feats, his record on the transfer market leaves much to be desired.
It's an embarrassing situation for everybody involved. Burnley will want to downplay the situation as much as possible. Gibson probably doesn't mind too much now. The more exposure that this gets, the more money that Burnley will lose when they try to sell him in the summer.