JONATHAN WOODGATE has told Middlesbrough’s youthful squad 'it’s good to talk' after a week when his squad has been robbed of two of its leaders in the dressing room.

George Friend and Jonny Howson, two of the few thirtysomethings on the Boro playing staff, are facing time on the sidelines after undergoing surgery this week to repair respective injuries.

While Woodgate hopes the pair will not be out for too long, their lay-offs means the team will be shy of a couple of the elder statesmen looking to improve the younger players coming through.

There will now be an even greater reliance on the likes of Adam Clayton and Ryan Shotton to lead by example on the outfield, but the head coach will urge those a few years younger to use their vocal chords to help Middlesbrough progress.

“I need voices on the training ground, at times you can’t hear any one talk,” said Woodgate. “You have to talk. You can help the game so much if you talk a little, even the odd word … show him here, there, I am here, you are there, pass the ball this side, you need talkers out there in any game.

“It makes a coach’s job easier if the players talk out there. It’s not ideal to have George and Jonny out but you deal with it. Unless you are top drawer and you know where your centre-half partner is you have to talk.

“Clayts is constantly talking to players out there, looking for a reaction. He has little reminders for the players of what they need to do. If you don’t have anyone shouting you will be running round in circles.

“That’s what the players have to do. Players have to step up. Dael has to that is why he is captain. Shotton is a very good communicator too and people don’t always see that from the side. I see it.”

Middlesbrough will at least be boosted by the return of Daniel Ayala, although it is unlikely that he will slot back into the starting line-up against Reading this Saturday at the Riverside.

But Woodgate has revealed that young full-back Hayden Coulson has suffered a set-back in his bid for recovery and could miss the next six weeks through injury.

The 21-year-old had made an impressive start to the new campaign under the new head coach but he has not figured since the defeat to Brentford on August 10.

Coulson suffered a tendon problem and has now had a recurrence after a period when Woodgate hoped he was making progress.

The news comes at a time when Middlesbrough confirmed Friend and Howson had to undergo surgery on Tuesday.

Woodgate said: “George had the operation yesterday, so did Jonny Howson. I'm waiting to hear off the doc what they found when they opened George up.

Woodgate added: “Jon will just be a bog-standard hernia, should be back in hopefully a couple of weeks. Gone are the days where you push mesh in, now it's just a quick clip of the right nerve and you're OK. Rudy Gestede should be fit after the Reading game.

“These injuries happen but they're an opportunity for someone to come in, like with Connor Malley on the bench last week. He'll be on the bench again.

“Hayden will be another four to six weeks.  There's a slight tendon issue with the rectus femoris which isn't ideal because he was doing fantastically well. I know because I've had the same injury.

“It's disappointing for us but he can still do a lot of running and the medical team will keep him fit.”

Middlesbrough will have had two weeks between games since the draw at Bristol City, when Woodgate’s players turned in arguably the best performance under him. He is looking for those standards to be maintained against Reading at the Riverside on Saturday.

“It’s been really good. We worked hard with the players, they've enjoyed it and we're looking forward to Reading. It's been good, the break,” he said.  “If my players get back safe that's the most important thing. Phil Hudson (analyst) will look at the opposition players for us.

“I know what my team is. I knew my team after Bristol for the Reading game. We work on a lot of things, what we're good at and what we’re going to be better at.

“I always go out looking at how we beat a team rather than worrying about them as much.”

One Middlesbrough player clearly enjoying life under Woodgate is Paddy McNair.  The Northern Ireland international has returned from being on duty with his country when he impressed in a qualifier with Germany.  He came out after his appearances for Northern Ireland and suggested how much he has loved this season so far, having had a torturous first year under Tony Pulis on Teesside when he was played in a variety of roles and rarely.  Woodgate said: “It's good to hear but we're only six games in. If we'd won all six games I'd have been saying the same thing. But I'm glad McNair is enjoying it because he's been our best player so far.

“Playing against Toni Kroos against Germany can only benefit him and this football club. He's full of confidence at the minute, he's playing with a real endeavour. He's doing it in training. I'm really pleased for him because he had a tough year last season."

McNair is not the only one who has been given a chance under Woodgate because there has had to be a change of approach at the club while there is a period of financial realignment.  And Woodgate is convinced that he can see it in his players' eyes just how much they want to succeed under him and repay him for reviving a few stuttering careers.  Woodgate said: “You only have to look at the team. Marvin Johnson was out on loan at Sheffield United last season, the season before he was rarely in the squad. Hayden Coulson was out on loan, Aynsley Pears didn't have a kick and now he's number two. I gave the Under-23s a chance in the summer. Some aren't ready but they will be in the future.

"I believe in Paddy. I said to him from day one you’re playing centre midfield, you’ll get a chance and he’s took his chance.

"I bet he didn’t think he’d play after the St Etienne game because he was sub but it was all a plan and he has done well for us so far, probably been our best player."