Bournemouth v Middlesbrough - Jonathan Woodgate has a better chance of succeeding at Cherries than he did at Boro

BROUGHT in to manage his hometown club amid talk of a change of culture at Middlesbrough, Jonathan Woodgate was ultimately ill prepared to cope with the rigours of a relegation scrap in 2019-20.

It was a time when Boro needed the equivalent of a fire-fighter to make sure a difficult season did not turn into a disastrous one – which it could well have been had Neil Warnock not succeeded Woodgate.

Warnock helped Boro survive late last season after Woodgate was axed with eight games left and fates decree that the duo go head to head today in a meeting of two play-off candidates.

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Boro’s veteran manager admits Woodgate will have learned plenty from his time at the club.

AFC Bournemouth interim manager Jonathan Woodgate (Picture: PA)

On Woodgate, in interim charge of the Cherries and seeking to earn the job on a full-time basis – which is likely to depend on them being promoted – Warnock said: “I say good luck to him and when I met Jonathan, he was a lovely lad and I have no problems with him.

“Sometimes, you learn a lot and it is hard to manage your own club where you have been brought up and you have critics everywhere who are telling you where you are going wrong.

“As a young manager, you must have the right staff and I think Jonathan would admit that if he had his time again, he would probably get somebody a bit more experienced to work with.

“But when you go to a club like Bournemouth; I am not saying you cannot go wrong, but you just have to put them in the right frame because they have got the right players and good enough players to win the league, let alone get in the play-offs.”

Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock (Picture: PA)

On the coat-tails of the top six, Boro require a healthy quota of points in their Easter fixtures with Bournemouth and Watford and in their game at Barnsley on Saturday week to keep their play-off hopes alive by mid-April.

It is a tall order and Warnock says his side should now play without pressure, while providing some perspective.

He added: “I think ‘to hell with it’ now, I don’t think anyone gives us much of a chance. We might as well have a go now and if we get beat, we get.

“I told my lads the team on Monday, which is unusual.’ The pressures now are nothing compared to last season.”

Last six games: Bournemouth WWDLWL; Middlesbrough DWLWWL.

Referee: S Hooper (Wilts).

Last time: Bournemouth 3 Middlesbrough 1, EFL Cup; October 24, 2017.

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