Sympathy for Woodgate but Warnock is just what Middlesbrough required - Sue Smith on football

I felt sorry for Jonathan Woodgate when Middlesbrough relieved him of his duties as head coach this week, but it probably had to happen.

Neil Warnock: Kept Rotherham up and now has same task at Middlesbrough. Picture: James Brailsford

For Boro, this restarted season is all about avoiding relegation to League One, and giving Neil Warnock the job has greatly improved their chances.

But the players will already have noticed a big culture shift this week, and it is important they adapt quickly.

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My only concern was the timing. The coronavirus lockdown gave Middlesbrough three months to think about things and it would have been a perfect opportunity to change. It would have given Warnock a little bit more time. Initially, he would not have been able to work with the players on the training ground, but as least he could have spoken to them, got a feel for what they were comfortable doing and got his ideas across.

It will be interesting to see if Warnock’s appointment panics some of the teams around Middlesbrough, like Hull City for example, into making a change, whether it proves to be the right thing to do or not.

I suppose Boro were probably hoping the time off would help Woodgate and his players by allowing them to reflect on what had happened and get back into some sort of form.

Sheffield Wednesday seem to have benefited from that. They switched to a back three on their return and I was impressed with them against Nottingham Forest.

Woodgate was probably a little bit unlucky with injuries to key players like Patrick Roberts and Daniel Ayala, but that happens to a lot of managers and you have to make do.

Recruitment was not great, either. They lost a few experienced players and brought in a number of youngsters from the lower leagues who had to adapt quickly to a new level. Trying to completely change the way they played while overhauling the squad was not going to be possible in a season, no matter how good a manager you are.

I know how much it meant to Woodgate to manage his local team and by and large I think the fans stuck with him for a while because they could see what he was trying to achieve but, in the end, you just want your team to stay up, and if that means you are going to have to make a change, so be it.

Warnock is a great appointment because of his experience of the division. He will make sure the team is really well organised and difficult to beat.

It might not be the lovely football some Boro fans want to see but it is about picking up points and results, and he is certainly a manager that can do that with the way he motivates players. He is the sort of person I would want to play for because he is so passionate.

I certainly expect them to get a bounce and you only need to put two or three wins together to get right away from trouble. From there, you have confidence and momentum.

Boro will be pretty devoid of confidence but picking players up is one of Warnock’s strengths. I would imagine the intensity of training has gone up a level at Rockliffe this week with everyone trying to prove a point.

The first session with the new manager will have been completely different, as will be the way he talks to players. You might like an arm around the shoulder but I can imagine he would tell you if you are not doing something well!

As a player you get used to a way of being managed and a style of play, so when a completely different character comes in with his own coaching staff, you have to adapt quickly.

The guaranteed starters under Woodgate should treat it as a kick up the backside to show what they are about. The players who have been on the bench will be thinking this is their chance to break into the team on a consistent basis.

If you were a regular substitute under Woodgate trying your best you might have got to the stage where you were thinking, ‘What’s the point?’ Now, everyone should believe they have an opportunity.

I hope Woodgate gets another chance somewhere where he has time to develop a team and show he has learned from his mistakes but while you never want to argue a manager should be sacked, it was time for the club to move on.

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