A FACETIME call with Michael Carrick left Alex Gilbert with no doubts about his move to Middlesbrough, with the forward relishing the opportunity to make the most of an "unbelievable opportunity" on Teesside.

The 21-year-old learnt of Boro's interest midway through last season and says he was immediately drawn by the prospect of a summer switch to the Championship side. There was interest from top flight clubs, but his mind was made up after a video call with Carrick, in which the head coach explained his plans for the forward, how he'll fit into the side and how he'll develop on Teesside.

"That was a really big positive and a big pull for me," admitted Gilbert, who joined after turning down a fresh contract with Brentford.

The versatile forward put pen to paper on a four-year contract with Boro, flying out to link up with the squad in Portugal early on Tuesday morning.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity at an unbelievable club and I can't wait to get going," he told Boro's website.

"I heard about the interest earlier in the season, probably mid-way through. I was actually out here in Portugal playing some games with the B-team and I heard they were watching me and they kept their eye on me through the rest of the season

"We went on a Premier League Cup run which we did well in, they watched me in that, so it's always been an exciting one for me.

"When I was looking at my next step to get first team football as soon as I could, I thought Middlesbrough was a brilliant option. The manager, when he Facetimed me, was explaining where he sees me playing and how I'll fit in to the way he wants to play and the main thing is how he's going to develop me and make me into an even better player."

Gilbert captained Brentford B to Premier League Cup success last season and won Player of the Year after scoring 16 goals and providing eight assists. He now wants to establish himself as a first team player at Boro.

"(I hope to) keep improving as a player and see how this season goes," he said.

"Hopefully this season I'll get as many minutes as I can and get myself on the pitch and, touch wood, score some goals."

Explaining what Boro fans can expect from him, Gilbert said: "I'm a creative forward, attacking midfielder, No.10, I can play off either side.

"I feel very comfortable with both feet so I like to be creative, combine the play and link the passes between the midfield and forwards and hopefully get things ticking over and score some goals."


Gilbert made his first team debut for Brentford against Boro in the FA Cup two years ago, and while that was one of only two appearances for the first team, he has the experience of travelling around the continent playing against senior sides with Brentford B.

"We travelled around a lot. With the B-team not playing in any sort of league apart from the Premier League Cup, we got the chance to go and play teams like Monaco, PSV and play in tournaments in Portugal." he explained.

"It's a different experience to play against first teams and I think that's rounded me off more than what you'd get from a traditional Under-23s player. You want to play men's football as soon as you can, so getting it from when I was 18 all the way through, you're getting the kicks and the lumps, it gets me ready for this step now."

Gilbert will soon be joined at Boro by highly-rated defender Rav van den Berg, who is set to sign from Dutch club PEC Zwolle. Boro are also in pole position to win the race to sign in-demand winger Sammy Silvera from Central Coast Mariners.