THE question is a tricky one, especially for a teenager, but Ben Gibson doesn’t hesitate in answering.
The 19-year-old, Middlesbrough born and bred yet pulling up trees on loan at League One leaders Tranmere Rovers, has been asked whether he views himself as a Boro player or a Rovers player. His response is unflinching.
“At the minute I feel like a Tranmere player,” he says. “Obviously I’ve got hopes and ambitions, being a boyhood Middlesbrough fan, of playing for Middlesbrough. But at the minute I’m just concentrating on doing a job for Tranmere.
“They couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, and I can’t thank everyone enough for that.”
It is just over two months since Gibson swapped the north east for the north west. The ink had barely dried on his five-month loan deal by the time he was catapulted into the starting line up at Chesterfield in the Capital One Cup.
He has not looked back since. The 19-year-old has played in every minute of every game thereafter, his partnership with Ash Taylor providing the foundation upon which Tranmere’s incredible start to the season has been built.
Gibson, the nephew of Middlesbrough chairman Steve, made one first-team appearance for his parent club, back in 2011, but loan spells are where his development lies now. Tranmere are his third temporary club, after stints with Plymouth Argyle and York City last season.
“It’s definitely been good for me,” he says. “I’ve been lucky so far in that the three loan spells I’ve had have been very positive experiences. Three very different experiences at the same time, but I’ve learnt a lot from each of them.
“This loan spell I really am enjoying. Obviously being top of the league and unbeaten really helps that, but the boys have been brilliant.
“It’s a step higher in terms of standard and level, which I am enjoying. I feel like I am benefiting from that, and revelling in the challenge.
“I just want to keep going, keep getting more games under my belt, keep learning more, and get more experience.”
It is easy to forget sometimes that this is a teenager speaking, so confidently does he articulate his thoughts, so positively does he assess the performance of both himself and his team.
Ronnie Moore describes him as “a leader” who “always has an opinion – though not always the right one”. Gibson, typically, speaks highly of his manager in response.
“Ronnie has been brilliant,” he says. “He is very tough on us, which is what we need. But at the same time he is very tactically aware.
He is very good at organising us, putting us into a shape and getting the lads going.
“He can give us a kick up the backside when it’s needed, and it has been needed a couple of times this season. But the players have responded, and we have got the results when we have needed to.”
Rovers will be looking to add a 13th unbeaten league game to their myriad achievements so far this season when they face Bournemouth at Dean Court today. They were made to work against Yeovil last week, fighting from 2-0 down to win 3-2, but Gibson believes their form can continue for some time yet.
He said: “The way we have been, it’s a case of worrying about ourselves. We’ve got a lot of talented young lads in our team with legs, and if we do our jobs as we should do, and to the standard that we’ve set so far, then there is no reason we should have to worry about the opposition.”
“I know you want me to say it’s a promotion chase, but we take every game as it comes.”