BEN GIBSON thinks forcing his way back in to the Middlesbrough first team picture after injury could be just the ticket for spending next summer at the European Under-21s Championships.
Gibson is likely to have been involved anyway had he not suffered a hamstring problem on the first day of the season against Birmingham City at the Riverside Stadium.
But the 21-year-old, who has proven his fitness during training for club and country over the last ten days, feels ready to compete again with Kenneth Omeruo, Daniel Ayala and Jonathan Woodgate for a starting berth in the Championship.
And if he is successful then he is confident that will boost his chances of staying in Southgate’s plans for next month’s Euro play-offs and beyond.
Gibson said: “Middlesbrough is obviously my bread and butter so the main thing is that I go back there playing and if you want to play for your country, that’s a must.
“If you’re not playing for your club, you won’t play for England so it will be good to go back and hopefully get my place back after my injury and see how the season progresses from there.”
It remains to be seen if Gibson figures in either of the remaining qualifier games during this international break starting in Kaunas on Friday evening against Lithuania, but he is determined to stay in the squad.
“The gaffer will pick his best 11 for those play-off games next month and it’s vitally important that we win these two first,” said Gibson, who flew out to Lithuania with the squad on Thursday morning. “It’s a chance for all of the lads to shine in training and for those who are selected.
“There’s a lot of competition for places, we’ve got a big squad even with the lads who aren’t here so we’ll be trying to shine and make sure we’re in that team come the play-offs.”
England are six points clear at the top of their group from Moldova, so already have one eye on the play-offs before a ball has been kicked in eastern Europe.
But Gibson said: “They will be hard games and obviously we’re going there to win them as a group and it will be a good experience and test for us.
“I had the experience of going away in the summer and that was a good test for us against different teams and hopefully that will benefit us in these next few games.”
Gibson was part of Southgate’s squad for the Toulon tournament during pre-season and he had previously represented his country at younger levels before playing for the Under-21s in May.
The hamstring problem he suffered last month prevented him from staying in the squad initially this time around, but after proving his fitness to Southgate as a stand-by at the beginning of the week he is ready to go again.
“It was a great boost to come along, after picking up an injury in the first game of the season,” Gibson, aiming to be back in the Boro picture at Huddersfield on September 13, who told the FA.
“To come back this quickly and be back involved in this set up already following my experiences from the summer is brilliant. I couldn’t speak highly enough of my experiences during the summer. I loved every minute and spending time with the staff and the players and getting to know everyone.
“Just being a part of an England squad is an amazingly proud moment for me and my family and it’s something that you just want more of. It’s success and I just can’t sum up how proud I am to be part of the set-up.”