JONATHAN Woodgate is hoping to end his career by helping home-town club Middlesbrough to return to the Barclays Premier League.
The 32-year-old central defender last night completed a remarkable return to Teesside when he signed a three-year deal after his contract at Stoke had expired.
But Woodgate, who initially signed for Boro in a £7million switch from Real Madrid in 2007 following a successful loan spell, did not agree to join manager Tony Mowbray’s brave new world simply to see out his playing days close to home.
He said: “The pull of helping Boro back in the Premier League is very strong for me, and from what I have seen of the current squad, I think it’s achievable.
“Tony Mowbray explained his plans for next season and how he is building a team that wants to get back in the Premier League as soon as possible.
“I want to be part of that, and if we can achieve promotion in my time here, it will be a fantastic way to end my career.
“Tony also likes his teams to play football the right way, and that was also a big plus point for me. It’s just a great feeling to come back to this football club.”
Former England international Woodgate will bring not only quality, but vast experience to the Riverside Stadium in the latter years of a career which has seen him play for a succession of big clubs, but be repeatedly hampered by injury.
He started out at Leeds before signing for Sir Bobby Robson’s high-flying Newcastle in January 2003 in a £9million move.
However, within 19 months, he was heading for Real Madrid in a sensational switch, although the transfer was to turn sour as injuries plagued his spell in Spain.
Woodgate revived his career in a loan spell at Boro before completing a permanent £7million switch, and performed to such a high level that Tottenham invested £8million in his services in January 2008.
Once again fitness problems limited his opportunities, and a move to Stoke last summer on a one-year contract did little to improve his fortunes.
However, Mowbray is confident Woodgate still has plenty to offer in what will be a gruelling npower Championship campaign.
He said: “I’ve been very impressed with Jonathan in my conversations with him, and his passion for the football club stands out.
“I don’t need to eulogise about Jonathan’s quality. He’s played for some of the biggest clubs in the world.
“We need to build on that experience and the quality he brings to our squad.”