Ben Gibson called into England squad as Gareth Southgate seeks to avert centre-back crisis

George Flood
Ben Gibson

Ben Gibson has been handed his maiden senior international call-up ahead of England's 2018 World Cup qualifier against Lithuania on Sunday (26 March). The highly-rated Middlesbrough defender replaces Manchester United counterpart Chris Smalling, who has returned to Old Trafford after suffering an injury.

Gary Cahill, captain during Wednesday night's Lukas Podolski-inspired 1-0 friendly defeat to Germany at Signal Iduna Park in the absence of regular skipper Wayne Rooney, has also now left the England camp. The Chelsea centre-back is suspended for that upcoming Group F meeting at Wembley Stadium after picking up another yellow card before scoring the third goal in November's emphatic home defeat of neighbours Scotland.

Trending: Gibson called into England squad as Southgate seeks to avert centre-back crisis

A player that Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate no doubt knows well from his time in charge of Middlesbrough and the U21s, Gibson has impressed during 'Boro's first season back in the Premier League and many will argue that his inclusion is overdue.

Southgate is not scheduled to address the media again until after a final pre-match training session to be held at Tottenham's Enfield base on Saturday. However, versatile Spurs midfielder Eric Dier, likely to start in central defence against Lithuania, was quick to praise the talents of a player with whom he played with at youth level.

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"I've known him since the under-21s and we get on quite well and he's a very good player," he said at a press conference. "He's been getting a lot of praise for how he's been playing with Middlesbrough this season."

This is proving to be something of a costly international break for Manchester United in terms of Jose Mourinho's defensive options, with Phil Jones having sustained a toe issue earlier this week during an innocuous training ground tackle – rumoured to involve Smalling – at St George's Park.

The 25-year-old did not travel with his teammates to Dortmund and was instead released back to his club in order to undergo scans to determine the extent of the damage. There is no word yet on the specifics of Smalling's problem or any sort of time frame for his recovery.

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