AS Jonathan Woodgate ponders whether to draw a line under his playing career, he believes Ben Gibson has all the characteristics to become Middlesbrough’s next hometown hero.

Gibson’s blossoming career will hit new heights in the coming weeks when a likely appearance for the England Under-21s against Belarus tomorrow will be followed by caps at the European Under-21s Championships.

The 22-year-old became a mainstay of the Middlesbrough starting line-up as Aitor Karanka’s side surged towards the play-off final at Wembley and his approach caught the eye of England coaches and Premier League clubs.

Woodgate, who has trained with Gibson for the last few seasons and played alongside him, can see what the fuss is about and is convinced Gibson can reach the very top if he continues to show the same desire and drive to improve.

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“Ben’s got the attributes. He has still got a lot of learning to do and he’ll be the first to say that,” said Gibson.

“But he can get there because he’s got the will to win, the determination to improve. He’s got the mentality that I wish a lot of other younger players had.

“Over the years I’ve seen some players with maybe a bit more ability than Ben not make the best of themselves but he has the attitude and the commitment. He can go as high as he wants to go.”

Woodgate is likely to be still around the club next season, regardless of what decisions he makes on his future. The 35-year-old is due to have discussions with officials in the next couple of weeks, with a player coach role or a 12-month contract extension option if he does not want to retire completely.

Head coach Karanka wants Woodgate around to help nurture young players such as Gibson.

Woodgate said: “Ben learns from his mistakes, he is harsh on himself and wants to improve. I’ll tell him when he’s made mistakes - not giving him a hard time, it is all constructive and he wants to hear it and learn how to deal with situations that arise.

“I also praise him. I’ll tell him if he’s been outstanding and dealt with something or someone well - but I’ll also point out if he’s made an error. He wants that because he wants to make sure he doesn’t do it again.”

Gibson could figure against Belarus tomorrow in the final warm-up game before the Under-21s Championships and hopes to have a key part to play under Gareth Southgate in England’s opening group game with Portugal on June 18 in the Czech Republic.

Southgate has outlined the admiration and respect he holds for him in the build up to the tournament and Woodgate understands why: “He had a season where he has got better by the game without a doubt. He’s in the England Under-21s on merit. He deserves to be there. He’s gone away to a big tournament and I hope he keeps on learning and growing there.

“He’ll be training with and playing with some really good players. How can you not learn from that? Ben is a quick learner. He wants to get better and works at it, and I know he’ll make the most of that and come back to Boro a better player.”

Woodgate added: “Do I see a bit of me in him? I suppose so. He’s very mature for his age, a lot more than I was, maybe that’s the upbringing he’s had and the school he went too. He’s smart.

“He’s got great communication skills. He’s a great player, great leader and a great talker on the pitch. He’s quality.

“For me, he can go as far as he wants, so long as he keeps on improving week on week - and I think he will because he has the drive and hunger to learn and improve as a player.”

What decision Woodgate makes will determine how many new defenders Karanka is looking for. He has already lost Tomas Kalas, Ryan Fredericks, Kenneth Omeruo and Fernano Amorebieta after their loan deals expired.

Ivorian Sol Bamba is under consideration, but Leeds United – where he was on loan last season – have been offered a permanent switch to Elland Road.

Boro would still like to sign Jordan Rhodes, although Blackburn are again insisting that the Scotland striker is worth £12m.