BEN GIBSON knows exactly what went wrong at Middlesbrough last season – and he is not the type to hold anything back.
This is the local lad who saw his boyhood dream of playing for Boro in the Premier League turn into a year-long nightmare as they went down with a whimper.
So you can understand why Gibson, who described relegation as the “lowest point” of his life, wants to get a few things off his chest – and ensure the same mistakes are never made again.
The Boro captain, 24, told SunSport: “Getting beat every week dents your confidence as a team.
“But do I think it was a confidence issue? I don’t. Other issues surrounding the team were the reason for our lack of success.
“We all know now it wasn’t a good dressing room – it was broken, there were different agendas in there.
“It was a really tough time for all individuals and in the end the dressing room was split. There were differences in opinion about different things.
“Obviously the manager brought a lot of players in, and then there were the people that were there before.
“So the way it formed, there were two big groups in the dressing room and it didn’t come together the way we wanted.”
The divide was between the British-based players and the large contingent of Spanish speakers, who had been recruited by the then boss Aitor Karanka and his head of recruitment Victor Orta.
And having lost the team spirit which was so instrumental in them gaining promotion the previous season, Boro won just five matches all campaign and were relegated with two games still to go.
Gibson, an ever-present last season and one of the few to actually enhance his reputation, admitted: “We knew how good it was supposed to be when we got to the Premier League, yet we didn’t enjoy it.
“Ultimately, you only enjoy it if you are playing well and you are doing yourself justice. And we all know we didn’t do ourselves justice as a football club last year.
“But the important thing is that you don’t just forget about last season, you’ve got to learn the lessons from it. And we feel like we’ve done that and we will be stronger because of it.”
Gibson believes new manager Garry Monk has quickly fixed Boro’s “broken” dressing room and that his ninth-placed team are on the right track, despite Tuesday’s shock home defeat to Norwich.
Ex-Leeds boss Monk oversaw a huge turnover of players in the summer, making ten senior signings and letting even more leave.
And ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Brentford, Gibson said: “The manager is a good man-manager, you can speak to him. I believe you are allowed an opinion and he is someone that will always here you out.
“The new signings have fit in really well. They are good players and, more importantly, great people. We are learning about each other and building a really strong camaraderie.
“To get out of this league, the lads who have been here before know it takes a huge amount of togetherness and we’ve shown that we have got that already.
“We have now got men who are all pulling in the same direction and that is going to be the key. We’ve got a squad who are going to demand off each other and expect to get promoted this season.”
Of course, Gibson could have quite easily not been part of this squad at all had Boro accepted a bid of £18million from West Brom.
The centre-half, who won an England call-up last season, knows a top-flight move would have boosted his chances of being in the Three Lions’ party for next summer’s World Cup.
But Gibson respects the stance made by his uncle, club chairman Steve Gibson, who refused to sell him.
And he now wants to guarantee he is back in the Premier League next season by helping his hometown team to promotion for a second time.
Gibson added: “I’ll be honest, over the course of pre-season I found it difficult because of the uncertainty. It’s uncertainty around your life – not just what colour shirt you are wearing next season.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER: BET £5 GET A FREE £10 BET
“I’d never been linked with a move before, I’d never been in that scenario, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. But the club made their position clear and it showed their ambition.
“Everybody knows that I dreamt of playing for this football club. I dreamt of getting promoted and being captain of it, and I’ve managed to achieve those things.
“But what I haven’t managed to achieve is staying in the Premier League. So now we’ve got to get back there to give it another go.
“After last year being so negative, if we were to get promoted, I think there’ll be a massive sense of relief and it’ll feel just as good, if not better, than last time we went up. And I know next time we get there, we’ll stay there.”