Whilst he may have gained a call up to the squad in May after Boro’s relegation to the Championship was confirmed, Ben Gibson had just come off the back of a good season on a personal level, so had he not been given the call you would’ve felt it harsh. However, this week’s squad announcement was perhaps the first indicator as to whether our absence from the Premier League would harm young Gibson’s chances.
It would appear playing for a team outside the top league has indeed harmed them, Gareth Southgate clearly deciding to focus on players plying their trade among the countries elite. The omission of Gibson isn’t a massive shock, but for the 24-yr-old you would have to feel it’s disappointing.
Southgate will have no doubt been in touch with an explanation regarding his decision, however it probably wouldn’t have needed one given most will have worked out the reasons. Whether it’s fair or not is depends on which side of the coin you’re on, but there’s no doubting that it’s probably sown some seeds of doubt in Gibson’s mind as to whether a campaign in the Championship is what’s best for him. He will have had his doubts before the season kicked off, but now it’s been confirmed he’s missing out, surely those doubts have become a little more pressing?
Interestingly Harry Maguire, recently acquired by former champions Leicester, has been called up for the first time. Had Gibson, who had been linked to The Foxes, been the one to move there instead, would he have been the one celebrating his inclusion in the recent national team squad? One can only speculate.
Follow his ambition or take a risk?
Speculation now though will turn to whether Gibson decides to stay at Boro, or if he chooses to force a move before next week’s deadline to enhance his international ambitions, as well as testing himself once more among the Premier League elite.
It’s question of whether his own personal ambition outweighs his loyalty to The Boro.
Of course, hankering after a move doesn’t diminish his love or loyalty to his club, but it would just mean that his own personal ambitions don’t quite match up to what Boro can currently offer. I don’t think many fan would begrudge him a move, much was said to that end during the summer, however because he’s now started the season with us there’s no doubting it’ll be a major blow.
Depending on what his thinking is, does he take the risk and see how the season pans out, or does he make the move now and hope that it forces his way back into Southgate’s plans?
Who knows, perhaps an excellent season captaining Boro to what we hope is a promotion winning campaign might well see him make a late and successful claim for a spot on the plane to Russia? After all, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility, plus England always seems to suffer an injury or two before a major tournament. Could he get in as a late replacement? It’s a risk, but is it one he’s willing to take?
Who’s to say that a move back to the Premier League would make any difference? He’s up against some competition; tried and tested (although not necessarily successes in some people’s eyes) players, as well as the promising Maguire and £25M man Michael Keane. Does he plump for a move to one of the big boys, but run the risk of warming the bench, therefore missing out on valuable game time? Or does he settle for a West Brom/Southampton type move, but potentially end up in the lower reaches of the league once more, possibly hampering his chances against his more esteemed colleagues?
We all know the quality of Ben Gibson. The likes of John Stones, Gary Cahill, as well as Keane and Maguire are probably the best the country has right now, whereas Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are arguably there more on who they play for more than anything else - injuries and loss of form have beset both of them in recent seasons. But Gibson’s ability stands up against each and every one of the aforementioned.
Decision rests with Ben
However, what’s clear is that Southgate doesn’t fancy picking players from outside the top flight. In what has been a long running debate, England have very rarely plumped for a Championship player. Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff) and our former striker David Nugent (Preston) immediately spring to mind, however they’re just two of what is a terribly small list in recent times to have made an appearance for England, despite playing their club football in the second tier.
If Gibson’s serious about his international ambitions then the latest squad announcement might just tip his thinking the one way we all hope it doesn’t go. What we do know, is that despite the obvious disappointment he’ll be feeling today, he bleeds Middlesbrough Football Club. This club means more to him than most that have ever pulled on the red and white shirt. It’s personal. He’s a local lad; his Uncle Steve is the owner.
Now, we’d be daft to think he’ll never leave, we all know that time will come. But how seduced is he by the chance to lead HIS team back to the top flight at the first time of asking? Or would the seduction of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, or the less obvious delights of a Tony Pulis led West Brom, be too much to turn down? He’ll know his transfer will demand a pretty penny - will making a few quid for his Chairman Uncle be in his thoughts? His stock has never been higher. However a failed campaign this time round might see his value decrease.
Does he go now, earn the club a huge fee, and go on to become the top level star we all know he’s capable of, earning international recognition with England in the 2018 World Cup? Or does he stay, put his ambitions on the back burner, see how the season goes and hope for the best scenario – Boro promotion?
One things for sure, Middlesbrough don’t have to sell, but it’s hard to see the Club allowing any situation such as this to get messy, after all, it’s not just any player, it’s Ben Gibson. You feel that much depends on his decision making as to what happens next.