JONATHAN Woodgate might not quite be at the veteran stage of his career.
But that won’t stop the former England central defender from becoming a mentor to Middlesbrough’s crop of immensely-talented homegrown stars.
Woodgate (right) was one of Boro boss Tony Mowbray’s seven summer signings.
Arguably, the 32-year-old is THE signing of the summer, anywhere, and if he can play a fair percentage of the games, Boro must have a great chance of promotion from the npower Championship.
Woodgate wants to help his hometowm club return to the Premier League, but he also aims to help Boro’s youngsters achieve their goals.
“What I have seen of them in training there are some really good players in there,” he said.
“If they can take their training form into Saturdays then they are going to have great careers.
“I am really excited for them.
“I will be trying to feed them confidence.
“If I had (an older) player tell me that when I was 18/19 then I thought ‘I must be a good player’.
“I want to give them confidence.
“I do believe the young players can have a big say this season.”
Woodgate was thrilled to be back in a Boro shirt again, looking consumate in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win at York.
And he says the ambition of taking Boro back to the top flight burns bright.
“That’s why I joined the club,” said the former Leeds, Newcastle, Real Madrid, Spurs and Stoke centre-half.
“It was great to play again and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“When I first came back as a Tottenham player I got a bit of stick, but I still enjoyed it.
“Now they (the fans) have been very good with me, which was nice.”
He added: “It’s just good to be playing again.
“You can play all the behind closed doors games you want but nothing beats the feeling of getting out on the pitch for a match and the atmosphere. That’s miles better.
“The fitness is what we’re working on and we’re doing that gradually, that’s the best thing to do.”
Woodgate is unlikely to be involved in Boro’s final pre-season outing at Scunthorpe tomorrow night.
But he could feature in Saturday’s Capital One Cup trip to Bury.