WITH just two wins from Middlesbrough’s opening 11 league games, an early cup exit to lower opposition and problems at both ends of the pitch to overcome, Jonathan Woodgate expects criticism.

In fact, as he chatted away at the club’s Rockliffe Park training headquarters ahead of today’s visit of leaders West Bromwich Albion, there was even a sense he was thriving on it. Unruffled by the questions thrown his way, the rookie Boro head coach is determined to prove people wrong.

He needs to do it quickly or Middlesbrough’s lowly position in the Championship could soon get worse. Defeat against the Baggies, perched proudly ahead of the rest having lost just once under Slaven Bilic this season, could see Woodgate’s team drop into the relegation zone.

It is not the ideal start to management he wanted, nor expected, when he outlined on occasions earlier this season that he had his sights set as high up the table as he could – even holding out hope of being involved in a promotion challenge.

That may still prove to be the case, but after the nature of recent defeats to Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday in particular there is a huge amount of work to be done. The players have to show they are good enough to turn things around, and the manager must show he can cope with the cards he has been dealt at the Riverside Stadium.

“First of all when I got the job I was prepared to get criticism if we didn’t start well, so I should get criticism, why shouldn’t I? We haven’t started the season well. We’re fifth from bottom, two points outside the relegation zone, it’s not good enough.

“I’m going to get a bit of stick, I’ve had that before, I’ve been plastered all over the front of newspapers before, it’s part of my job. You learn to have thick skin, you need to have a strong mentality, you need to have a strong personality.

“Sometimes you enjoy getting a bit of stick because you want to prove them wrong, I don’t mind getting stick me, it doesn’t faze me. I don’t mind getting hammered.”

The fact that Nunthorpe raised Woodgate still lives in Middlesbrough and is surrounded by friends and family who support the club must surely make it harder to deal with negativity when he is the man responsible for delivering results.

“As a football manager you’re in that place where you’re here, home, here, home. If someone gives me stick, I’ll take it,” said Woodgate. “Someone sending me a screen shot, I’m not bothered.

“Being a Boro lad, coming through at Boro, having a successful career at Middlesbrough, you get stick. Look at Stewie (Downing). It happens to players when they play at Leeds when they play at Newcastle … lads at football clubs get stick, simple as that.

“I think it (what he has experienced before) sets most people up. Journalists, you lot, are just being honest, you can hammer me if you want, I’m not going to look at you in the next press conference and think you hammered me, it’s part of the job.”

As a Middlesbrough supporter, Woodgate is desperate to achieve with his hometown club.

He says defeats and poor performances hurt him as much as the next Teessider, and laughed off suggestions that he was asked more critical questions than normal by a Sky Sports reporter in the aftermath of the defeat at Birmingham.

“It’s a good challenge for me but I’m not going to sit here making excuses I haven’t got this I haven’t got that, I’ve got what I’ve got and I’ll go with it,” said Woodgate. “I still believe the position we’re in at the minute isn’t good enough for the players we’ve got. I think we should be doing better and the buck stops with me.

“The only question which got me in that (Sky) interview was she said if you play like that surely you’ll get murdered. There are people in the world getting murdered, that’s what I should have said and put it back on to her but I answered a question. Ask any question you want I’ll answer it.”

Woodgate did promise high intensity football with an intention to excite when he took over from Tony Pulis in the summer, but the situation Middlesbrough find themselves in has led to a change of approach in the short-term.

He said: “I want to play but I want to get results. My long-term vision is that what I said when I took over but I need to get results.

“It’s been tough, it’s been challenging at times but when you see them on the training ground it can give you a false sense but then it’s a different environment going into a pressure situation. I need to play what really suits my team.

“We have played like that in certain situations but we need to be more consistent. I’m not sure why, I hope it’s not motivation playing against bigger sides but we do need to get wins on the board.”

West Brom will be confident of leaving the Riverside with a win. Woodgate, who confirmed Rudy Gestede misses out with a hamstring injury, said: “West Brom have started really well, they have good players at the front end of the pitch. We can be as good as them and at the minute we are not showing it but we will show it, I am convinced of that.”