In a season littered with disappointments, there’s been one shining light, one positive among all the negatives – Ben Gibson.
Those who saw the interview he gave shortly after Middlesbrough’s relegation was confirmed at Chelsea will see just how much he was hurting. They will have also seen just how much he led by example. Pulling no punches, he gave an honest account.
“After the highs of last season, to be honest we’ve wasted an opportunity to play in the best league in the world,”
Fans of The Boro will no doubt feel the same, but of course, that’s what Gibson is – a fan.
Rise in reputation
Watching him stand in front of the cameras was almost like watching any other Boro fan. As he spoke with great maturity that belied his relative young age. He made it clear that this was a collective failure, and it showed his humility that he made a point of including himself in that. Of course, he wasn’t going to say any other, yet any supporter this season will look at Gibson as possibly the one player who can look at himself in the mirror, who can be happy with what he’s achieved. At least on a personal level.
His stock has risen, a lot. Aside from being a prominent fixture in a Premier League side and even going on to captain his hometown team, he’s also achieved the ultimate accolade – a call up to the England squad.
Ok, so he may have been a late call up, a replacement for an injury, however the pride he will have felt at being recognised at international level will no doubt leave him wanting for more. He may not have made an appearance, but he’ll now feel he belongs at that level. The experience, training with the best players the country has to offer, he’s been among all that and will have no doubt looked at home.
He’s been tracked by a number of top flight clubs this season. His impressive performances have seen him reportedly draw attention from the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton – massive clubs. He’s become a commodity that’s left the big boys circling, sniffing around, waiting to pounce when the time is right. That time, presumably, has been when the inevitable drop to the Championship is confirmed.
Could he actually stay?
Since the turn of the year the talk of Gibson leaving has intensified, naturally so given Boro’s chances of survival waned. Now that survival is no longer a possibility, much talk has now turned to where Gibson is going to go and how much for. But is there a chance he may stay?
Going back to that interview after the 3-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, among the quotes came an interesting line. Referring to the importance of an immediate return to the top flight he said;
“We have to put it right and make sure we come back stronger”.
Now, he may well have just been toeing the party line, saying what you’d expect him to say, however some have noticed the use of ‘we’. Is he including himself in any attempts to “come back stronger” at all?
You may well feel this is clutching at straws, and you could be right, but he’s a local lad, this will have hurt him considerably. As if you could forget, his uncle is the chairman, so it’s a family thing. It’s ingrained in him; he’s a Teessider, a fan. Could any of this come into play when deciding on his future?
A risk to stay?
You’d expect Middlesbrough may well want to keep him if there was the faintest of hope. Given the parachute payments for at least the first season and the sales of other players, Boro will have enough money to make the additions required to get them back up, or at least have a good go. That said, failure to get promotion at the first attempt may see him want to leave, and after a season in the Championship his value will no doubt have reduced somewhat.
If he were to leave at the end of this season you have to feel he’d command a healthy sum. Burnley’s Michael Keane is being talked about in some circles as being worth £20-25m, surely Gibson deserves the same sort of standing? It’s a lot of money for Boro to turn down potentially, so would they rather cash in now, or run the risk of his value plummeting?
He’ll also have his England ambitions placed on hold. It’s very rare a player from the second tier gets the attention of his national team, will the player himself want to risk setting himself back a few years potentially?
If he doesn’t move now he may well find himself way down the pecking order when it comes to the top five or six clubs looking for the next up and coming centre-half. Football moves on quickly these days, someone else may have moved in on his patch, taking up the mantle of the man in demand.
Then again, if recent newspaper talk is to be believed, it’s not Gibson’s name that’s on the lips of the bigger clubs, it’s Keane that’s being linked with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United. The talk at the moment is that Gibson is still attracting interest, yet it’s from the likes of West Brom and Southampton. Not the top guns, more like mid table dwellers. In the grand scheme of things would he see a move from Boro to one of those as huge step forward, worthy of leaving his beloved Boro?
Of course, he’d be back in the Premier League, but one of either WBA or the Saints, or any other club of that stature right now could easily find themselves skulking around the wrong end of the table. Such as the unpredictable nature of England’s top flight in recent seasons, what’s to say one those teams wouldn’t be relegated, or at least battling it for a large part of next season? Would Gibson want to throw himself into the heat of another relegation tussle?
Gibson the Hero?
Does the prospect of captaining his hometown team to promotion, being the main man, appeal to him more than perhaps turning out for one of the Premier League lesser leading lights? Of course there are no guarantees in football, and the consequences of staying and it not working out are there for all to see. But if it did, then well, it could cement his place in Boro history as a hero, a modern day Tony Mowbray.
Ok, Boro might not find themselves in dire straits like they did in the mid 80’s, but they’re in need of hero’s. What better than a local one?
Right now though it’s all if’s, but’s and maybe’s. There’s the small matter of restoring pride in the remaining two games of this season. But once Boro’s campaign comes to an end at Anfield on the 21st of this month, then the talk will start.
Is it beyond the realms of possibility that he’ll stay? Maybe. However, is it inconceivable that he’ll still be a Middlesbrough player next season? Absolutely not.
Will Gibson stay and lead the club’s promotion charge? Will Middlesbrough cash in? Will the big boys come calling? What fee would you want to receive for Gibson? Leave us a comment below.