Aitor Karanka has hailed Jonathan Woodgate after the veteran defender shelved his retirement plans to sign a new deal at Middlesbrough.
The 35-year-old has jetted out to join the rest of the Boro squad in Marbella after agreeing terms on a new contract with the Championship club.
Woodgate, who has made more than 100 appearances for the club over two spells, looked set to retire at the end of last season.
But Boro’s head coach Aitor Karanka had made no secret of his admiration for the defender and the experience he brings to the dressing room.
“Woody will be important in the changing room,” said Karanka.
“I really appreciated his reaction after hearing of Alex Baptiste’s injury last week, and he is ready to come back.
“He knows his role will be a bit different. He wants to come here to help us get promotion.
“I said last season and I’ll say it again, he can be very important because he is a good person and a good lad.
“He was thinking about retiring 10 months ago and now he wants to help us. We are close to being a family here, and we’re pleased to say ‘welcome back Woody.’”
Woodgate, close friends with Stewart Downing who has returned to the club, made nine appearances last season and scored a decisive goal at Blackpool.