Middlesbrough skipper George Friend backs Ben Gibson for England call
Middlesbrough captain George Friend believes teammate Ben Gibson is ready-made for an international call.
Rumours have been circling this week that stand-in England boss Gareth Southgate is set to name the Boro defender in his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifier with Scotland, and friendly with Spain.
And Friend thinks 23-year-old Gibson is not only a player for England's future, he is ready for the present as well.
"He is pretty much there," Friend told TalkSPORT.
"He has been the stand out performer for us this year.
"He is still young but he plays as if he has been around for years.
"His attitude and character are second to none also. He is excellent to have around. A local lad, who is very popular. I love playing alongside him."
One player whose England days are almost certainly behind him is Stewart Downing.
But Friend says he is still a player of some influence at the Riverside.
And the former Exeter, Wolves and Doncaster defender believes experienced pros like Downing have helped some of the less experienced players within Aitor Karanka's squad adapt to life in the top flight.
"Stewart is great," said Friend.
"He has excellent quality and a lovely left foot. He still runs about like his is a kid.
"He played a big part in us making it into the Premier League. I'm sure he will help us retain our status, too. He has been superb.
Friend continued: "Players like myself have not got a lot of Premier League experience.
"We are all learning in this league.
"No matter how tough, this is where we want to be.
"It is crucial that we get as many points as we can. We have to be confident but we can't get ahead of ourselves.
"This is a tough league."
After a difficult start to life following promotion, Boro have found their feet in recent weeks.
A battling draw at Arsenal, which with a stroke of luck might have brought three points rather than one, and the weekend win over Bournemouth mean the Boro dressing-room is a positive place to be right now, according to Friend.
"The game against Arsenal probably wouldn't have meant much had we no followed up with the Bournemouth win. It was a pleasing two results.
"We had a game plan at the Emirates and we executed it pretty well. To walk away thinking we could have won it is positive.
"These are the type of games we want to play in.
"It is the fine margins for us really.
"The fans have been great.
"They have embraced the Premier League and stuck by us.
"They were dying for that home win. We got it and hopefully there will be many more."