What would mark a successful season for Middlesbrough and Jonathan Woodgate?
Following the appointment of head coach Jonathan Woodgate back in June, it was made clear Middlesbrough were focusing on the long-term plan.
Woodgate signed a three-year contract at the Riverside earlier this summer, when the Boro hierarchy mapped out their goal to promote the youth and play an attacking brand of football.
So what would mark a successful season in year one?
It’s still early days following just five Championship games but, when you look at some of the performances from sides like Leeds and Fulham, the Teessiders appear some way off the early pace setters.
That was probably to be expected given how some Championship clubs have been building under the same manager for the last few years – take this weeks’ opponents Bristol City for example, who look set to launch another play-off push with Lee Johnson at the helm.
Yes it can be argued that Boro did spend heavily in the summer of 2017, yet the changes in management and style have made it difficult to gain much traction, The appointment of Woodgate marks a clear change of strategy.
Ever since the early Aitor Karanka days, Boro have at least been pushing for a spot in the top six, yet given the squad’s lack of depth and change of direction, that will be a challenge this term.
What Boro fans will want to see, though, is improvement, which hasn’t exactly been evident in the opening five league games.
The 3-3 draw at Luton and first half against Brentford was like a breath of fresh air compared to the slog of last season, yet the last few weeks have been less convincing.
Of course it will take time for Woodgate to implement his ideas but, against Blackburn, Wigan and Millwall, Boro have struggled to cope with the long-ball tactic which has bypassed their midfield.
Woodgate will have to find ways to deal with that as he continues to learn and develops as a coach. The Championship, though, can be an unforgiving place.
For this season to be considered a success we must see signs that Boro are improving and ironing out their deficiencies under Woodgate, even if they aren’t in the promotion mix.