THERE is an adage in football that says you should never go back. Reunions are rarely as successful in practice as they would appear in theory; things are rarely as good for anyone second time around.

In the case of Ben Gibson and Middlesbrough, however, it is time to throw the accepted thinking out of the window. If Gibson was to return to his native Teesside on a season-long loan deal ahead of next Friday’s transfer deadline, it would surely be a positive outcome for all concerned.

Let’s get things clear straight away, as things stand, Gibson will not be leaving Burnley to head back to the Riverside. Despite having failed to pick the centre-half for a single league game this season, Clarets boss Sean Dyche is adamant he does not want to lose him without having a defensive replacement in place.

Middlesbrough are struggling to put together a package that would enable them to meet their former skipper’s wages, which are understood to be around £50,000-a-week, and continue to insist they have no interest in bolting a loan deal for Gibson onto a package that would see Dael Fry move in the opposite direction to Turf Moor. There have been trans-Pennine talks this month, but they have not resulted in an agreement.

Yet as Friday’s deadline approaches, and Boro’s need for a new centre-half becomes increasingly acute just as Gibson’s frustration at his lack of involvement this season continues to grow, so the arguments in favour of a deal become more and more compelling.

Take the finances out of the equation, and from a Boro point of view, re-signing Gibson for the next three-and-a-half months is a no-brainer.

With Fry having joined Daniel Ayala, George Friend and Ryan Shotton on the injury list on Tuesday night, Jonathan Woodgate’s lack of senior options at centre-half has become crippling. The Boro boss is understandably reluctant to pitch 17-year-old Nathan Wood into regular service amid the cut and thrust of the Championship, and while Jonny Howson and Paddy McNair have performed manfully as part of a back three, cobbling together an entire central defence out of central midfielders is surely not a sustainable option.

The financial scope for making a permanent addition is limited, and quite rightly, Woodgate would rather leave any major reconstruction work to the summer when the contractual positions of Ayala, Friend, Shotton, Howson and Adam Clayton will become clear.

A defensive loan deal looks the best bet, so who better to step in than Gibson, someone who knows his hometown club inside out, has played with the senior figures in the dressing room and would immediately command respect from his team-mates, manager and fans?

There is no point signing someone on loan and then having to wait a month or so for them to get up to speed. For all that he has not played much football this season, Gibson would be able to hit the ground running.

The Northern Echo:

Affording him would be an issue, but Darren Randolph’s departure will have created some room on the wage bill and come the final few days of the window, Burnley might well be receptive to some sort of deal. If the will is there, and it should be, Steve Gibson will surely find a way of making it work.

Would his nephew want to return to Teesside just a year-and-a-half after leaving? Well, he cannot be happy with his current situation given that he did not even make the substitutes’ bench for Burnley’s trip to Old Trafford last night. His career is stagnating, and if he remains in Burnley’s reserves for the second half of the season, he is in danger of dropping off the radar completely.

Other clubs want him, most notably Fulham and Huddersfield Town, but would they really offer a better opportunity to get things kick-started than Boro? If Gibson does leave Turf Moor this month, he needs his next posting to be a success. Head back to Teesside, and he will at least be starting his recovery mission from a position of strength, both in terms of his comfort in his temporary surroundings and his relationship with those around him. He would also be pretty much guaranteed to play given the lack of alternatives at Woodgate’s disposal, something that will be a key part of his thinking if he gets the green light to move on.

Will Burnley grant him that? They should. For all that Dyche is understandably keen to secure a replacement, the fact Gibson wasn’t even on the bench yesterday speaks volumes, with Erik Pieters and Kevin Long getting the nod ahead of him.

Lest we forget, Gibson is supposed to be a £15m asset to Burnley, but his value will quickly plummet if other clubs repeatedly see that Dyche does not even regard him as one of the best 18 players at the club.

Having turned 27 last week, Gibson is not getting any younger, so he needs to be in the shop window rather than the shadows. If that means subsidising a chunk of his wages in order to help him get his career back on track, Burnley should view such an arrangement as an investment in his future.

It all points one way, but football is rarely that simple, especially in the final week of the transfer window. Never go back. Unless it makes perfect sense…


PRIOR to Wednesday night, Luke Trotman was best known for being a semi-professional footballer with Darlington. As of now, though, the erstwhile right-back has been catapulted into the nation’s consciousness as a contestant on Love Island.

Fair play to him. Whatever happens on ITV’s celebrity horror-show, he’ll almost certainly make more money wandering around in his boxer shorts than he would have trying to shake off an Achilles injury in order to contribute to the final few games of Darlington’s season.

The Northern Echo:

But what does it say about his commitment to trying to make it as a footballer when he would rather chase Z-list celebrity status than devote himself to his training and rehabilitation work? And what does it say about Darlington’s claim to be a professionally-run outfit when they are willing to allow one of their injured players to swan around in their swimming trunks on ITV?

Darlington will claim his injury means he wouldn’t have been able to play in the next couple of months anyway, but that’s not the point. Fans put their hard-earned money into buckets in order to keep Darlington alive – they didn’t do it to enable their players to chase fame and fortune on vacuous TV shows.


SO much for British tennis being able to survive without Andy Murray. Despite having seven entrants, the nation’s interest in the Australian Open lasted precisely four days before all players were out. It is going to be a barren landscape once Murray’s hip gives way for good.