A year ago, Edinburgh City striker Nico Gibson was told his career was effectively over. Now, he is potentially three games from promotion to the SPFL.
Gibson came on as a second-half substitute during last Saturday’s 3-0 Pyramid Play-off semi-final first leg win over Cove Rangers – his first competitive appearance since last season’s penalty defeat by Brora Rangers at the same stage.
Finally back after a hip injury that was worse than first anticipated, the former Aberdeen youth player reflected on a tough year as he prepared for tomorrow’s second leg at Meadowbank. “It’s been a really long, difficult year,” Gibson admitted. “The hip injury happened against East Kilbride when we won 1-0 – the last league game I played. I don’t know how I managed to play the rest of the game. I had a problem and went to various physios who said it was a hip muscle injury and that I just had to strengthen my hips, so it would only be two or three weeks out. I ended up seeing about four physios and the last one said it was a tear in my cartilage that would have to be operated on, but I’ve not had it yet.
“I went to the hospital to get it checked out and they found that I had problems with my joints as well and that I wouldn’t be able to play again. That was devastating news considering football’s been a big part of my life since I was seven years old. It’s pretty much the only thing that I enjoy doing. It was too much – even just watching, so I’ve decided I may as well keep playing and suffer the consequences later.
“It’s one of the toughest days I’ve ever had. Going in to get the scan, it’s just the last thing you ever think about hearing. It was really, really hard to take and along with a few other things that have happened, it’s not been the best year for me. I’ve no problems with the injury at the moment though, it’s just a bit stiff. I’m planning on training once a week and then depending on what Gary [Jardine] wants from me in terms of game time. Leading up to the play-offs I’ve been training twice a week and trying to get as fit as possible.”
Gibson is grateful for his manager’s understanding in a difficult situation. “He was one of the first people I told,” he revealed. “He’s helped me quite a lot with personal circumstances as well. We had a chat and both decided at the time it was wise to not do anything because in the future it could possibly mean a hip replacement so it was difficult to decide what to do. For the time being we decided just to leave it but I just missed football too much.”
Games like tomorrow are why he’s back. Barring a collapse of AC Milan 2005 Champions League final proportions tomorrow, City should progress to a two-game decider against East Stirlingshire for promotion to the SPFL. “It’s one game down, but it’s not ever yet,” Gibson warned. “It’s brilliant to be part of games like this. When we got to the play-offs last season there was a totally different feel to it from this season. It was our first experience of winning the league and our first experience of the play-offs. This year we’ve been a lot more professional about it. We’re treating it as really important game but not a massive occasion – that maybe got the better of us last year. So far it seems to have helped.”
For Gibson, going up would mean his decision to keep playing the game he loves will be more than justified. “That’s the dream,” he stated. “To come back and get league football would be so good for myself, but to do it with City would be even better. I’ve never experienced a team like this. When I signed three and a half years ago, there was talk of introducing the pyramid and we all said ‘imagine if it did? That would be amazing’. For us all to hopefully experience it together would be some achievement.”