Jonathan Woodgate WON’T be afraid to make tough decisions at Middlesbrough - Stewart Downing’s Blackburn departure is a sign of that

Following the announcement that Jonathan Woodgate would become Middlesbrough’s new head coach on a three-year deal, his first managerial press conference was set to start at 12:30pm.

By Joe Nicholson
Sunday, 23 June, 2019, 16:52

Sticking to the schedule, flanked by Boro chairman Steve Gibson, head of recruitment Adrian Bevington and chief executive Neil Bausor, Woodgate arrived bang on time - not a minute late.

It was the start of an impressive interview, in which Woodgate outlined his plans to play attacking football, promote the club’s youth players and bring fans back to the Riverside next season.

And, in the week since his unveiling, Woodgate and his new-look coaching staff, have shown they won’t cut any slack.

For starters, the punctual Woodgate will ensure he and his players all wear suits when traveling to games next term, a contrast to the tracksuit days of Tony Pulis.

New assistant Robbie Keane has also said Boro’s backroom staff won’t stand for any ‘energy sappers’, while goalkeeping coach Danny Coyne spoke about attention to detail and maintaining a positive atmosphere.

On promoting the club’s academy prospects, Woodgate added: “I won’t be frightened to put a young player in, and the fans can start connecting with them. If they’re good enough they’ll play.”

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The first potential stumbling block was the imminent departure of Stewart Downing, following the announcement the winger wouldn’t be offered a new deal.

Boro’s statement left room to manoeuvre and, as a former team-mate, it would have been easy for Woodgate to offer Downing, 34, a new one-year deal.

The Teessiders are still desperately short of wingers after all and, as shown by the significant interest, Downing is still more than capable at this level.

Yet Woodgate stuck to his principles, determined to rebuild a young, hungry side which can take the club in a new direction.

Boro’s new boss will need to maintain a firm stance in the weeks to come, especially when it comes to signing new players and moving others on.

Yet the early signs suggest Woodgate will not hesitate when big decisions have to be made. Long may that continue.