It’s well known that Kieran Gibbs has a twin brother. It’s also reasonably well known that Jaydon Gibbs is a pretty useful footballer too. But is that where the similarities begin or end? As Jaydon, who now plays in the Conference for Aldershot, exclusively tells us, the fact that the two are the best of friends doesn’t mean that they are the same in every way.
Jaydon, what was it like growing up with Kieran?
We lived in a bit of a concrete jungle area near Croydon, so it was a case of the two of us scraping our knees, annoying the neighbours, breaking windows, going down the park, getting in fights with each other, bickering and driving our mum mad! We’d argue about the smallest things – who’d had the last drink from the fridge, games of Pro Evo, everything. We actually didn’t get on that well at school – we even used to walk there separately! We mixed in different circles but as soon as you grow up a bit you find that you gel more.
When did you start to become closer?
"Talking with your mum or dad isn’t the same as talking to your brother. You’d hear stories from the changing room and things like that, and we just became closer after that time"
When we left school, at about 16. It was about that time when Kieran went to Arsenal and he was really nervous – he confided in me and just needed a friend to talk about it with sometimes. Talking with your mum or dad isn’t the same as talking to your brother. You’d hear stories from the changing room and things like that, and we just became closer after that time.
Did you share a bedroom throughout your childhood?
Yes, we were the bunk bed boys! Kieran loved the top bunk. He’s always been quite personal, quite private, so he had his little domain up there.
Did being twins mean that, like it or not, you were always grouped together at school?
Through primary school we were together, yes, and seen as the Gibbs brothers. It changed when we went to high school though – Kieran was a bit smarter than me and went in a higher set, in with all the clever kids. I think one teacher even said, “Why can’t you be like your brother?” to me once, which wound me up at the time, but you live with it!
So has he always been the quieter of the two?
He’s never changed! He’s always been quite quiet, a private person as I say. He’s a watcher – he always says I’m the one that cracks the jokes and he’s the one that laughs at them! He’s my biggest fan – a good audience! I had the kind of rebellious stage that most teenagers go through, in high school mainly, but when you mature you feel a bit guilty about it: teachers don’t need a cocky kid in their face all day when they’re just trying to work.
It’s quite something that, despite being pretty famous now, his personality hasn’t altered...
He’s never been flash or in your face – he’s always quite reserved. He’s one of the only footballers I know that takes his Converse round to his mum’s to get them washed rather than go out and get a new pair! He’s very level-headed: nothing has changed him and in this day and age I think it’s very rare. I can’t really remember anyone who has ever had a bad word to say about Kieran.
Of the two of you, was it always Kieran who stood out when you played football as kids?
He’s going to hate me for saying this, but it was me! The earliest thing I can remember was a trial at a club called Tandridge – I got picked and he didn’t, but because we were twins they took us both. But then things changed – we played for Croydon Schools and I’ll never forget our manager, David O’Brien, giving Kieran the Player of the Year award and saying, “This kid will go far, he’s one of the most gifted talents I’ve seen since being a manager”. We were about 13, 14, perhaps even younger, so he really called it! That’s always stuck in my mind.
So Kieran pushed on and came through the Arsenal set-up, but was there a particular moment when you realised he would make it? I think it was the FA Youth Cup game when he scored at Emirates in 2006/07, and perhaps also when he played against Inter Milan in the Emirates Cup a few months later. That’s when it hit home. Before that things were different, because when we were growing up a lot of kids at our school were at academies – Charlton and places like that. It was almost the norm. So I’d say that goal really sparked it for me.
And what was his rise to stardom like for you? You had wanted to be a top player too, after all...
I went through a difficult time with it at one point and actually gave up football for a while. I had so much pride and thought that, if I couldn’t be at Kieran’s level, I didn’t want to do it at all. But once I realised that high-level football wasn’t going to be for me and I accepted it, I started being happier for him. I’ve never been jealous or anything like that, though – you’re always proud, but sometimes you just feel you could have done more yourself.
Was it strange to see him start to be recognised out and about in public?
It was weird to me, because to me he didn’t look very recognisable – not one of the people that stand out much. But we’d be in random places, a coffee shop in New York or something, and someone would come up out of the blue. You forget how many people watch football and know who he is. I think he still struggles with it a little bit sometimes, because he can be a bit guarded, but he deals with it better now.
Every player has highs and lows. How have they affected Kieran, and how have you helped him through the tough times?
He obviously struggled really badly with injuries in the past, and mentally it was tough to get round that. When he slipped in the Champions League against Manchester United, too – that really hit him hard. People think that once you get off the pitch you stop caring, but it was tough to see him in such a bad way. You’ve just got to remind him how good he is. He’s quite modest and just needs someone to put their arm round him and say: “Look, you’re considered to be up there as one of the best left backs in the world.”
How would you have handled the extra pressure at the top level?
I think I’d be in the Daily Mail every week to be honest! I sit there now and think it went to the right person. If there was a story to be found it would probably have had my name written all over it!
You’re doing well in the Conference with Aldershot now. Have you rediscovered your love for playing the game?
Now that I’m playing full-time football again it’s upset me that I didn’t continue originally. I’ve just got my love for the game back, yes. I had a good season last term. I had an operation for a double hernia after it ended but now I’m fit and ready to go. It’s funny though: when people ask me, I still don’t really call myself a footballer even though I train every day and it’s a full-time job.
"We live together in our bachelor pad, and he does the cleaning and I do the cooking!"
And we hear that, like Kieran, you’re a full back these days!
I actually went to Aldershot as a right-footed left winger. I wasn’t in the starting line-up early on, but our right back got injured and I put my hand up and said, “I’ll do a job there if you want.” I had about half an hour and did all right; I found myself on the team sheet at right back for the next game, and 37 games later I was still there. I’d played the whole season!
You have a claim to fame of your own of course – having played for self-proclaimed independent state Sealand!
I didn’t quite know what I was getting into with that! Kieran’s agent told me that there was a celebrity game, with Ralph Little and other people involved, and then I ended up with international honours! Maybe that’s ruled me out of an England role now! We played the Chagos Islands at Godalming. It was quite strange, but I’m told I’ve got a cap so I won’t argue with that!
Finally, having been through so much together, how is your relationship with Kieran now?
Without sounding cringy, we’re best friends – inseparable. We live together in our bachelor pad, and he does the cleaning and I do the cooking! I could pick out the shoes, clothes or music he’d like – we know each other so well. We’re quite similar on many things, but I’m a bit more outspoken than he is!
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