Tuesday 01 November 2016, 08:29

Downing: Southgate won’t be afraid to pick Gibson for England

Stewart Downing and George Friend believe Middlesbrough team-mate Ben Gibson deserves his first senior England call-up.

Gibson played under Gareth Southgate for the U-21s, forming a centre-back pairing with John Stones, and the interim England manager was at the Riverside Stadium for Middlesbrough’s meeting with Bournemouth on Saturday. There, he witnessed another infallible performance from the 23-year-old, who helped Boro make it back-to-back clean sheets.

“It’s not often you get an England manager at the Riverside to be honest,” said Downing, who represented his country at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and won 35 caps. “Gareth will know Ben very well because he’s worked with him closely with the England U-21s for a couple of years now.

“Ben has done himself no harm with that display. He was great last year and has been a consistent performer this season, and that’s what he needs to do.

“Gareth knows him better than anyone. He will know Ben just keeps improving and these last couple of clean sheets will have done him no harm at all. No doubt he will pick him if he deserves it on form. Gareth has shown he is not bothered about who they play for already – he goes on form, like when he didn’t pick Wayne Rooney. I don’t think he will be afraid.

He’s got the character, no question. He is vocal. He is a leader. He has been captain here a few times already.

“He’s got the character, no question. He is vocal. He is a leader. He has been captain here a few times already, he knows the game and his performances have been really good, and even though we haven’t got results at times his game has been bang on.

“That’s all he can do. Gareth has worked with him, he knows his qualities, so no doubt he will pick him if he deserves it.”

When ask by talkSPORT if Gibson was a star of tomorrow, Friend responded: “Why the future? He’s pretty much there now.

“He’s excellent. He’s been a standout performer for us, that’s for sure. He’s still young, but he plays as if he’s been playing at this level for years and years. His attitude and character is the same as well.

“He’s excellent to have around. He’s a local lad, very popular, and I love playing alongside him.”

Southgate is expected to name his squad for the World Cup qualifier against Scotland and the friendly against Spain on Sunday. Gary Cahill, John Stones, Michael Keane and Chris Smalling were the centre-backs included in his most recent selection, with Eric Dier also able to play there.

The Three Lions lead Group F, two points above Lithuania and Slovenia. Scotland are three points off the pace in fourth.

Only Brazil (20), Germany (18), Italy (18), Argentina (16) and Mexico (15) have participated in more World Cups than England (14).