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Gibson ready to make his mark on Middlesbrough's first team
BEN GIBSON is ready to make his mark on Middlesbrough’s first team next season, and the 20-year-old centre-half hopes the pre-season programme has proved he is capable of stepping up to the Championship.
Gibson, who spent the vast majority of last season on loan at League One Tranmere Rovers, has started all three of Boro’s domestic friendlies this summer.
His performances at centre-half and left-back have persuaded Tony Mowbray not to send him back out on loan, and with both Jonathan Woodgate and Seb Hines suffering from long-standing injury concerns, the Nunthorpe youngster could find himself pushing for a slot in the starting line-up on a regular basis next season.
His career has come on apace in the last 12 months, with things feeling very different during the current pre-season than they did at the same time last year.
“It feels very different to what it’s been like in the past,” said Gibson, who is the nephew of Middlesbrough chairman, Steve. “Last year, I knew I was going straight out on loan from the minute I came back. This time, I’ve had an opportunity to impress and know I’m being looked at in a different light. I’m taking every chance I can to show what I can do.
“Pre-season has been massive for me because it’s been my opportunity to show the manager what I can do. I feel I’m now in a position where I can compete for a place in his team on a regular basis, and hopefully I’ve been able to show that over the last month or so.
“For some players, pre-season is mainly about getting their fitness up, but for me, it’s more than that. I have to show the manager that I’m ready to play in this football team.”
Gibson scored Boro’s opening goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 win at Rotherham, powering in at the back post to convert Richie Smallwood’s free-kick.
It is the quality of his defending that has impressed most, though, with a composed display at the New York Stadium mirroring similarly mature performances against Morecambe and Hartlepool.
Whether he can maintain those standards in the Championship remains to be seen, although he is clearly a much better player than the one that left for Prenton Park at the start of last season.
“I know more about the game, and more about myself as an individual now,” said Gibson. “I’m better in certain situations now, and that’s what the manager has asked of me.
“Before I went out on loan, he told me to go out and experience league football and League One was a big step up for me from the level I’d been at. It was a really good opportunity for me, and I feel like I learned a lot and am benefiting from it now.”
He is also benefiting from the presence of Woodgate and Rhys Williams, two of the most talented centre-halves outside the top-flight.
“You’ve got two of the best centre-halves in the league there, and they’re great to watch and learn from,” said Gibson. “I think Woody has been one of the best centre-halves England has produced – he’s played in the best teams in the world with some of the best players. To have him around, and be able to talk to him and learn from what he does, is brilliant. I’m in a privileged position.”
It remains to be seen whether Gibson makes the starting line-up for tomorrow’s home game with Bordeaux, a match that marks the culmination of Boro’s pre-season schedule.
Seven days later, and the Teessiders will be kicking off for real against Leicester City, and while the club’s failure to add to the early acquisition of Dean Whitehead and Jozsef Varga is a cause for concern, Gibson is adamant his team-mates will be ready when the action begins in earnest.
“I think we’re looking good,” he said. “The game at Rotherham was the first time we’d conceded goals, but they were probably down to individual mistakes. That can happen in pre-season, because you train a lot more than you normally would in the build-up to a game.
“When I look around the squad, the lads look sharp, especially in training. We’ve got a good test against Bordeaux which everyone is looking forward to, and I think that will give us a good gauge of how we’re looking going into the season.”
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