Ben Gibson is not in any mood to pretend otherwise – Middlesbrough surviving in the Premier League is “vital”.
The central defender has been one of Boro’s stand-out players this season but Steve Agnew’s men are second-bottom after 28 games, five points adrift of fourth-placed Swansea City, the side they face at the Loberty Stadium on Sunday.
Following the Swansea game comes the test of Hull City, another team mired in relegation trouble, before the Teessiders welcome Burnley to the Riverside, a team who haven’t won away from home all season but are just a few points from being assured of safety.
Relegation to the Championship after just one year is unfathomable for Gibson, with particular reference to the impact it would have on the town.
He said: “We’ve got a huge week – Swansea, Hull, Burnley.
“Three massive games, they’re all six-pointers.
“We’re looking forward to it because we see it as a week in which we can fix the predicament we’re in.
“It’s vital that we stay up.
“Not just to the club, but the whole town. We had seven years out of the Premier League and it’s a town which has had a lot of hard times, with the steel works shutting.
“Football is the beacon, the shining light at the end of the tunnel.
“Everyone comes to the games, it’s where everyone forgets their worries.
“It’s what the kids dream of, gives them something to aspire to and we’ve worked so hard to get into the Premier League, we have to stay there.
“We are very together as a town and we’ll fight until the end to stay there.”
On a personal front, 2016-17 has been yet another fine one for Gibson.
He’s supposedly on the radar of bigger clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, while last week he received his first call-up to the senior England team.
“It’s very flattering to hear clubs are interested, but I’m just focused on the next game for Boro,” Gibson told the Daily Mirror.
“Now I’ve experienced it with England, I want more of it.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Ayala trained with Boro yesterday and he is in the frame to feature at Swansea, a few weeks after suffering a hamstring injury.
Swansea have Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton fit to return.
Boss Paul Clement said: “They are both in very good shape – they look strong and hungry to get back into the team.
“We have missed them because they have been influential not only in terms of defending but particularly attacking from their positions. We are very happy to have them back.”
Looking at the challenge from Boro, Clement added: “They have changed their coach. Steve (Agnew) has had one game in charge and I have watched that game closely to see if there have been any significant changes.
“I thought they played well against Manchester United – 3-1 flattered United a little bit.
“Middlesbrough had a lot of the ball, they created some good chances and they were positive when they went 2-1 down. These are all things we’ll have to be ready for.
“They will be organised and they will be looking to come here and win.”