BEN GIBSON was only 16 when defeat to West Ham United at Upton Park condemned Middlesbrough to life in the Championship.

The local lad from Nunthorpe had grown up a Boro fan, watched his hometown club in the Premier League before playing for the academy.

It was a depressing day for every Middlesbrough fan when relegation was confirmed and he was no different.

He had made significant progress and had dreams of showcasing his ability on the stage he had watched for 11 years in a row, the same stage where the likes of Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu had impressed at the heart of the defence.

Gibson always hoped one day he would have the opportunity to replace Southgate, the club’s passionate former captain. Now, after a season that will live long in his memory, Gibson is on course to have his wish granted.

There may have been interest in him from the Premier League, but he has always wanted to pull on the Boro shirt in the top-flight, in front of his friends and family, and it is set to become reality in August.

The 23-year-old said: “I have dreamed of being in the Premier League. I grew up watching Middlesbrough in the Premier League. Now we are back there I can’t wait to bring those nights home again.”

Gibson has impressed on the big occasion already. He was, arguably, man of the match against Brighton last weekend with a passionate defensive display which helped earn the point required to seal automatic promotion.

And pictures of him fist-pumping at Old Trafford earlier in the season, when he helped Middlesbrough shock Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, followed an outstanding display at the back.

He has the right mentality to grow into his role as a Premier League defender and, given his age and his roots, there is every reason to believe he could be a future Middlesbrough captain – in the Premier League.

Gibson said: “I don’t care how we have done it. We found a way, as we have done all season, and we are where we belong.

“We have dug in, been mentally tough, and maintained our will to win, to keep clean sheets and to take chances when we needed to. Everything fell right in the end.

“The town’s full of hard-working people but sometimes doesn’t get the best press. But they are proud people too and this puts us back on the map, where we belong.

“Our area is proud, it has been a tough seven years, and football to the people is so important. To give them this back is amazing. It will give them a boost, no doubt.”

Knowing full well what his uncle Steve Gibson has done for Middlesbrough over the years – having helped save the club from liquidation in 1986 before taking control in 1994 – he knows the chairman is immensely proud of what has been achieved this season.

“He deserves it more than anyone. He lives and dies by this football club and deserves everything he gets. He has made days like this happen,” said the Middlesbrough defender.

“We have shown how strong we are. We have shown the toughness and togetherness of the squad, the football club, the town. We have got good people in charge, good leaders, good footballers and we deserved it. It was always going to happen.”