THE potential for Middlesbrough’s early-season drama to turn into a crisis over the next seven days is something that Jonathan Woodgate will be acutely aware of.
Just 11 league games into his tenure at his home-town club, in his first senior managerial role, Woodgate is under pressure from fans to arrest the slide of a Boro side who are hovering just above the drop zone – having flattered to deceive in an unsatisfactory start to the season.
Aside from good performances against Luton Town and Bristol City, Boro’s displays having been decidedly average and plumbed the depths last time out in a poor defeat at Birmingham City.
That set the alarm bells well and truly ringing on Teesside and the arrival of another Midlands side who top the table in West Bromwich would appear to be untimely on paper for Boro.
Creditably, Woodgate is fronting up and not dressing up Boro’s form in the opening quarter of the season ahead of a key week which sees his side visit fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town on Wednesday before hosting Fulham next weekend.
Woodgate said: “You sit down and analyse. We do need to do things better.
“I am not stupid; we need to improve, that starts with me. I am at the top, that filters down to the coaches but the buck stops with me.”
While conscious of the here and now, Boro’s longer-term picture specifically regarding contracted players is something that is also not lost upon Woodgate, with seven senior players in the final year of their deals at the Riverside Stadium.
Adam Clayton, Jonny Howson, Daniel Ayala, George Friend, Ryan Shotton, Rudy Gestede and Marvin Johnson all see their contracts expire next summer.
But for the time being, in what always had the portents to be a transitional season as Boro realign financially after the end of their parachute payments, Woodgate is preoccupied with the need for immediate results to stop the season unravelling even further.
He added: “We will wait for the time being. We have got until the end of the season.
“Some players are doing okay, some need to improve, but I will cross that bridge later on and we will make a decision.
“It won’t all be my decision, of course, but I will have a good say on it.”