JONATHAN WOODGATE will use Norwich City’s rise up the Premier League as his inspiration as he attempts to drive Middlesbrough forward – and claims the Canaries’ success over the last 12 months proves what is possible if you stick to your footballing principles.

This time last year, Norwich were being tipped for a season of struggle under their inexperienced boss Daniel Farke, who like Woodgate was settling in to his first senior managerial position after previously working at academy level.

Norwich failed to win four of their opening five league games last season, but despite being criticised for his side’s open, high-risk style, Farke refused to change tack and adopt a less expansive approach. He was rewarded with a stellar nine months that ended with the Canaries being crowned Championship winners, and the success has continued this season with Farke’s side toppling Premier League champions Manchester City last weekend.

Woodgate is keen to borrow elements of Norwich’s approach as he looks to overhaul Middlesbrough’s playing style, and cites an unwavering belief in a preferred methodology as a key part of the Canaries’ outlook that he would like to mimic on Teesside.

“You watch the way a team like Norwich have developed, and that’s really encouraging,” said Woodgate. “It shows what’s possible. You look at the way they’ve developed, and the way they’ve stuck to their principles, and it’s something to aspire to.

“You have to go right back and look at the recruitment they did. Okay, they got a lot of players, and some of them were on frees, but they’re good players and fit perfectly into what they want to do. That’s important. You need to know what you’re getting, and they recruited really well. The manager has done a great job, both in terms of getting the players and them moulding them into how he wants to play.

“It’s taken Norwich two years to get to where they are now, but you have to stay with what you believe in. I know what I believe in, and I intend to stick it. I’ll carry on doing that.”

Like Farke, Woodgate wants his side to be comfortable in possession. He wants his players to press as high as possible up the field, urges his full-backs to get forward on the overlap and encourages his attacking wide players to get into the box to support their centre-forward.

Such an approach is not without its risks, and there have been times this season, most notably in the away games at Luton and Bristol City, when Boro have been open and susceptible to the counter-attack. However, on the other side of the coin, they have caused problems in all of their matches and are averaging more than a goal a game.

Inevitably, there will be times when Woodgate’s players have to dig deep, with Saturday’s trip to Cardiff City likely to be such a game. In general, though, he wants them to adopt the same positive, progressive mindset that served Norwich so well last weekend.

“If you look at their game against Man City, I thought they were terrific,” he said. “The way they pressed, the way they played, and the way they stuck to their principles right to the end. Even in the last few minutes of the game, they were still pressing high up the field.

“I think to myself, ‘They’re doing it the right way’. They went to Liverpool and tried to play, but if they’d gone and sat deep, they would still have got beat. If they attack against Liverpool, they might still get beat, but why not do something that you believe in?

“They played against Man City at the weekend, and they beat Man City by doing something they believe in. They could have been defensive and got beat, but they were brave enough to say, ‘No, this is how we’re going to play’. I like that.

“Look at Man United in their pomp, too many teams used to go there trying to sit deep and defend. If that’s your game plan, what are you going to do if you concede in the first minute?”

Woodgate’s first challenge is to outfox Cardiff at the weekend, and Jonny Howson, George Friend and Hayden Coulson all remain unavailable because of injury.

While Boro’s head coach is at the start of his managerial career, Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has more than 1,500 matches under his belt and Woodgate is looking forward to pitting himself against such a wily Championship campaigner.

“Neil Warnock has been in the game for 40 years and managed 17 clubs,” he said. “He’s been a fantastic servant to the game.

“He’s got an immense amount of experience and done really well, so it’ll be a different test for me, a different challenge. We know what Cardiff are about though, and we think we know what it’ll take to beat them.”