JONATHAN WOODGATE is convinced he can deal with any criticism that will inevitably come his way over the course of his Middlesbrough managerial career, as he prepares to open the season at Championship new-boys Luton Town tonight.

Woodgate feels his playing career, when he had to deal with plenty of negativity towards him, has placed him in good stead for what is required to manage in the professional game.

The 39-year-old, often described as one of the best English defenders of his generation, was often knocked for an injury poor record and incidents on and off the pitch, including “mistakes that he has made” to contribute to that.

But Woodgate has learned how to cope and there is already a feeling he has overcome a lot of the critics among the Middlesbrough supporters who didn’t want him to get the job.

The former Real Madrid defender has engaged with the supporters since his appointment and is working on making the team more attractive to watch, knowing what his hometown likes to see from the men playing at the Riverside.

“I just thought everyone’s entitled to their opinions (when the stick was flying on social media),” said Woodgate. “In my football career, I’ve had a lot of opinions and a lot of bad stuff written about me which isn’t true - some is true, I was no angel, I admit that – but some of it was total b******s and a load of s****.

“But when they’ve heard me speaking and they’ve heard the vision I’ve got for the football club a lot of them have changed their opinion.

“But their opinions will change come the end of the season depending on the position we finish and what type of season we’ve had and how we’ve played.

“Because with our fans I think if you give everything you’ve got, sweat, blood, determination for the shirt and you get beat they’ll take it. As long as they see those players working their b******s off week-in, week-out, the manager and the coaching staff really giving them everything, showing passion, they’ll have it.

“It’s when they don’t they won’t have it and I’m the same as them because I’d be exactly the same on the sideline. If my team weren’t giving it, I wouldn’t be happy. But my teams will give it and if they don’t, the ones who don’t will go.

“You’ve got to have thick skin as a player and even thicker skin as a manager because you are going to get it and there are times when you are really going to get it, the fans will get on your back and it’s how you react to that.

Woodgate added: “It’s how you show that you are brave, you are positive. Be positive when I speak to you guys (the press) and that message filters across but I will be judged after 46 games.”

Ahead of tonight’s opening night trip to a packed Kenilworth Road, Woodgate met a number of fans at a meeting where he happily allowed things to over-run to answer more questions.  He said: “I really enjoyed it. It’s really good to speak to supporters and tell them what you want because at the start – it’s changed a bit – but at the start I was getting caned.

“(People saying) ‘we don’t want him’. Now I’ve spoken and said what I’m about and what I want to do, they are with me. I was getting hammered.

“But no one knew what I wanted to do, no one heard me speak, no one knew my ideas, my vision for the football club, no one had a clue what I wanted to do apart from me.

“It was good to really speak to me on a level where they could ask me anything they wanted to and I would answer honestly.”

Woodgate has worked under some fantastic managers, including Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle to Terry Venables and Harry Redknapp with Tottenham. Even his 18 months under Tony Pulis at Middlesbrough taught him a lot because he was given the encouragement to lead sessions and meetings.

One thing he has been told to do is make sure he switches off – and takes time out with his young family.

He said: “It’s important to have that rest and have a breather with your kids and get in the garden and get in the park with him and teach him how to ride bikes, that’s how you try and release yourself from this cauldron because that’s what it can be.

“You can’t get caught up in it all you need to spend time with your kids and try and forget about things. If we’ve won a game or we’ve lost one game let’s see how I deal with it then but I think it’s important to do that as a father as well, I want to see my kids growing up, I want to see them doing these nice things like learning to ride a bike or making Rice Krispie cakes or ice lollies, I think that’s important to have that release.”

That could be hard living in Middesbrough, though? He said: “I can escape, don’t worry about that, I can escape, no problem. You don’t get found in the middle of Stewart Park with your kid on a bike do you?

“If I do the school run everyone is really, really polite to be honest with you. All the parents at the school are really good. If they come over and ask for autographs or photos that’s fine, it’s part of the job, I’ve had that since I was 17.”

Middlesbrough face Luton with Darren Randolph and George Friend available. Woodgate fully expects the Hatters to be a difficult first opponent. He added: “A newly-promoted team, live on Sky, they will fill the stadium, but I will say every week, every game is going to be tough, every game is a cup final."