JONNY HOWSON has branded Middlesbrough’s efforts last season as a “failure”, and expressed confidence that the core of the squad that remains at the Riverside is capable of improving on their efforts under Tony Pulis.

Boro missed out on the play-offs on the final weekend last term, with a run of six successive defeats in March and April scuppering their hopes of making it back to the Premier League.

A failure to secure promotion cost Pulis his job, and resulted in the appointment of Jonathan Woodgate as head coach earlier this summer.

Woodgate is determined to oversee a radical overhaul of Boro’s playing style, and having helped his new boss claim his first pre-season victory as he opened the scoring at Gateshead on Wednesday night, Howson is confident there is sufficient quality in the squad to improve on last season’s efforts.

“We’re starting from a pretty good place, but we can’t hide from what happened last season,” said the 31-year-old, who found himself lining up at right-back two days ago, having also filled in as a wing-back under Pulis. “The bottom line is that we failed last season.

“With that squad, I personally believe that we should have been in the play-offs as an absolute minimum, but if you look back, I think that six-game run killed us. We missed out, and it was a disappointment.

“But we weren’t too far away and a lot of the lads are still here. We’ve had two or three that have left, but we know the core of the squad is there. We have to aim for an improvement now. We have to improve on what we did last season to be successful. We’ll see how that goes.”

While Wednesday’s game only pitched Boro against opponents that will spend next season playing in National League North, it nevertheless provided a first domestic glimpse of Woodgate’s plans in action.

The Teessider wants his side to be bold and adventurous in attack, and is also urging his players to press high up the field when they do not have possession. It is a marked shift from the tactics employed by Pulis last season, although Howson expects a degree of flexibility to still be important.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “We’re under a new management regime, asking different things, and we have to put those into practice.

“It’s still very early days, but the message is that we want to play a different way this season. Each to their own – Tony Pulis had his way of playing, and the new manager has his own way that he wants to play. As good players, you’ve got to be able to adapt.

“Certainly, in the Championship though, the message might be to move the ball and get the high press on, but I’m sure there may be some games this season where we have to play in a different way. Because of circumstances, we might have to change, and as a good unit or a good team, you have to be able to adapt to different situations.”

Boro return to action on Sunday when they head to Victoria Park to take on National League side Hartlepool United.