JONATHAN WOODGATE revealed recently that he had offered to retire last year after further frustration on the injury front - and now he is dreaming of ending the season on a high.

Woodgate returned to action in remarkable fashion in midweek, capping his first appearance since August by scoring in a 2-1 win at Blackpool to lift Middlesbrough to the top of the Championship.

Staying there for the rest of the campaign is now the aim, although this week’s break for FA Cup action can provide the experienced defender and the rest of the squad with a further boost to confidence in the promotion race. Or that’s what Woodgate thinks anyway.

Middlesbrough have grown from strength to strength under Aitor Karanka and no matter what the head coach has tried it has tended to come off. Tuesday’s victory at Bloomfield Road was the perfect example.

Not only did he make seven changes, he also surprisingly introduced Woodgate to the back four after months of wondering whether he would play again. Then he turned in a performance to remind everyone he can still do it, even before he scored on his first Championship outing of the campaign.

The 35-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season when a decision will be made by Woodgate, Karanka and the club about his future. Given his pedigree, the former Real Madrid centre-back is somebody that Karanka likes to have around.

If Woodgate does end up staying, it would be special for him to have helped his hometown club back in to the Premier League at the sixth time of asking since relegation in 2009.

Bringing top-flight football back to the Riverside Stadium is the target, but springing a surprise at the Emirates in the FA Cup tomorrow – just weeks after stunning Premier League champions Manchester City - would be almost as memorable.

“We want to try to win the game at Arsenal, make no mistake about that,” said Woodgate. “Every game we play we try to win, that’s how the manager has us playing and how he has us focused. But we want to try to get promoted, that’s the big one.

“We will go to Arsenal and put in our best effort like we did against Liverpool and Man City in the cups earlier in the season. We’ll give it our best shot and see what happens. We know we can cause an upset and the lads will be going there with confidence.”

Karanka won manager of the month for leading Middlesbrough through an excellent run inn January which also included the heroic 2-0 victory at Manchester City in the fourth round. That was then followed by league wins over Brentford, Charlton and Blackpool, to highlight that the cup run is not affecting Championship fortunes.

It will be hoped that whatever happens at the Emirates on Sunday evening does not have a negative impact when Middlesbrough head for Birmingham City on Wednesday and then when Leeds head for Teesside a week today.

Woodgate, who could be involved at Arsenal because of a thigh problem to Daniel Ayala, said: “If you keep winning games it breeds confidence and it makes people want to keep on trying and going in the right direction. If we do that at Arsenal we’ll have a good chance in the following games.”

But Woodgate, who spent the majority of his career at the top end of the football ladder playing in the Champions League with Leeds, Newcastle and Real Madrid, is a huge admirer of Arsene Wenger’s Gunners.

He said: “They are a fantastic team. I think this year they’ve got the best player in the Premier League in Alexis Sanchez. I think he’s been outstanding. They’ve got pace all over with Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud. They are a fantastic team.

“But there’s nothing better than playing against the best teams. The lads will love it and they will thrive on it. They did against Man City and Liverpool and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if we upset them. You’ve got to ride your luck as well. Against Man City we played really well but we rode out luck and we need to do that as well.”