MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka has revealed he recently persuaded skipper Jonathan Woodgate not to retire.
Woodgate spent the first half of the season battling injury but scored the crucial first goal in Boro’s 2-1 win at Blackpool in his first league start of the season.
“Woody is very important to me and I’m very pleased to see him enjoying this moment,” said Karanka ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round.
“I wouldn’t have said this, but two weeks ago he said he was thinking of retiring.
“I had a chat with him and told him that he needed to enjoy his last days as a player.
“For me, to be a player is the best thing in the world.
“I convinced him and now he’s enjoying the moment.
“It’s very important for the team and club, and I’m very pleased.”
The 35-year-old impressed in a three-man defence alongside Tomas Kalas and Daniel Ayala against Blackpool and Karanka sees him as an important mentor to Ben Gibson, Kenneth Omeruo and Kalas.
Karanka added: “Woody’s not young but he needs to finish this season and after then we can have a chat.
“If he feels good and feels he can keep going one more year, I’m going to help him and work with him however he wants, because he deserves the best,” added the Boro chief who was speaking to the club’s website.
Boro take on Arsene Wenger’s Gunners at the Emirates Stadium at 4pm on Sunday. The game is live on BT Sport.