Page 33

You had more options than most young players – why football, and why Middlesbrough?

“First, obviously it’s my home. And in Middlesbrough we aren’t a town that has a lot of money – as a young lad there isn’t loads to do apart from play football on a weekend with your mates. You train during the week, you play on the street when you can – that’s what every young boy in Middlesbrough does. So I was no different. I fell in love with the game, fell in love with this club and I’ve never really looked back since that first trial. In Middlesbrough it’s every lad’s dream to play for the club. There is nothing else. It’s football. I’ve been one of the lucky lads who made it to this point.”

With your uncle being the owner, you must have been immersed in the club from a young age. What’s your first memory? “I was mascot – I think I would have been five or six – and we played Liverpool at the Riverside. Paul Ince was their captain. My mum’s still got the photos of me running out with my little Middlesbrough kit on. So probably that one – being on the pitch, meeting the players. Obviously I would have been at games earlier than that, but that’s the first memory.”

Those must have been the glory years?

“Yeah, very much so. That would have been 1998/99, so there and after that we were in the Premier League. We won the Carling Cup [in 2004] as it was then, even qualified for Europe [having finished seventh in the league in 2005] and reached the UEFA Cup final [in 2006]. Those were amazing years for this football club, when we were not a team fighting relegation from the top flight but a rock-solid Premier League team. It’s up to us now to bring those days back.”

When did you start training with the club?

“I was 10 when I signed for Middlesbrough, and 11 when we first came to this facility. It was three nights a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday – with the game on the Sunday. We’d come straight from school. The sessions started at 5.30pm, but I’d get here at quarter to five, five o’clock, so I could spend half an hour practising my own stuff, seeing Dave, asking what I could work on. I was always hungrier to do more. I wanted to make myself a better player and practise left foot, right foot, my skills – because I fancied myself as a bit of a centre-midfielder then, believe it or not.”

Theo Walcott has scored six goals in 17 games for Arsenal against Chelsea, and bagged an FA Cup hat-trick last weekend. Didier Drogba is the all-time top-scorer in the fixture, with 13

How much of a difference has Aitor Karanka made to the club?

“The gaffer’s had a huge impact on this club in the three years he’s been here. He’s stabilised us, narrowly missed out on promotion and then got us promoted the year after. This year, we’d like to be a bit higher [Boro were 16th when Sport went to press, prior to the midweek games, on Tuesday evening]; our performances probably deserve that. But we haven’t quite nicked the results where we would have wanted. Ultimately, this year is about staying in the league and not getting sucked back down into the Championship. We’re in a good position to do that.”

There’s talk of a move to Chelsea or Everton. And an England call-up...

“Obviously I let other people talk about that. That’s not for me to get carried away with. I’ve had a good first 20 games in the Premier League, and I’m not going to get ahead of myself and start thinking about other things. If people want to start talking about England, then I’ll let them do that. But obviously it would be a dream come true if I were called up.” Opening doors: Gibson (left) with Dave Parnaby and Adam Clayton (right)

GunninG for the Blues

Another dream come true.

“Another dream come true [Gibson grins]. I seem to be ticking them off, yeah.”

@amitkatwala

31

the weekend’s fixtures saturday

Chelsea v arsenal Sky SportS 1, 12.30pm Crystal palaCe v sunderland, 3pm everton v bournemouth, 3pm hull City v liverpool, 3pm southampton v West ham, 3pm Watford v burnley, 3pm West brom v stoke, 3pm tottenham v middlesbrough Bt Sport 1, 5.30pm

sunday

man City v sWansea Sky SportS 1, 1.30pm leiCester v man utd Sky SportS 1, 4pm

Ian Horrocks/Getty Images, Getty Images for Premier League, Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

“There is noThing else. iT’s fooTball. i’ve been one of The lucky lads who made iT To This poinT”

Profile for Sport Magazine

Issue 484  

The party's over - for Sport magazine, and for Leicester City. Their fleet-footed striker Jamie Vardy tells us about life after the miracle,...

Issue 484  

The party's over - for Sport magazine, and for Leicester City. Their fleet-footed striker Jamie Vardy tells us about life after the miracle,...

Advertisement