MIDDLESBROUGH are not going to be sacking Jonathan Woodgate. Not today, not on Saturday, no matter what happens in what could prove a difficult afternoon at QPR, and not during the forthcoming international break, even though that tends to be the time when these things happen.

There might well be changes as a result of the challenging start to the season that sees Boro struggling in the relegation zone, having won just two of their opening 15 league games, but they will not involve a switch of head coach. Similarly, there will be no abandoning of the ‘golden thread’ initiative that was unveiled when Woodgate was appointed as Tony Pulis’ successor in the summer. The message emanating from the hierarchy at the Riverside is that they remain committed to this for the long haul.

Is their stance a commendable display of loyalty and resolve in an industry where kneejerk reactions tend to dominate? Or is it the footballing equivalent of fiddling when Rome burns, a failure to act decisively as relegation becomes an increasingly likely possibility? The simple answer is that we will only know come May.

If Boro stabilise in the next few months, perhaps with the addition of a few new signings in the January window, and start to develop a foundation for future growth, the long-term plans espoused by Steve Gibson, Neil Bausor and Adrian Bevington on the day of Woodgate’s first press conference could yet be realised. If the nosedive continues, and they end up in League One, all bets will be off. As Sunderland have learned over the last 18 months, a golden thread can quickly become frayed amid the nether reaches of the third tier.

Boro’s executive team will argue that rather than being indecisive, backing Woodgate and sticking to their plan is actually the most decisive thing they can do.

Even they would have to concede there are pragmatic imperatives at work. With the Premier League parachute money having been spent, and with a host of senior players coming to the end of their current contracts either at the end of this season or the culmination of the next campaign, there was always going to be a need for a radical change of direction.

The level of spending that followed relegation, when Boro splashed out more than £50m in a single transfer window under Garry Monk, is unsustainable in an era of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. The club simply doesn’t generate the level of revenue that would enable them to continue to support the wage bill that was in operation under Monk and Pulis, and FFP rules mean Gibson can no longer write the kind of £1m-a-month cheques that once propped the club up.

Necessity dictates that Boro have had to shed some senior players, replacing them with younger, cheaper alternatives, and that process will almost certainly have to continue as contracts expire over the next 20 months.

Amid that backdrop, would it really be sensible to jettison Woodgate and replace him with a more experienced alternative, say someone more along the lines of a Pulis? If a new manager came in, the first thing they would demand would be a radical overhaul of the squad and some serious investment in January. Financial reality dictates that is not going to happen.

Boro have tried the ‘sticking plaster’ model, and it has not worked. Pulis was appointed as a means to an end, but left having overseen two unsuccessful promotion campaigns, and with the Riverside fanbase thoroughly disgruntled at their team’s preferred style of play. Boro’s leaders have decided they do not want to keep chopping and changing managers, ripping up the template and the squad every year or so, and would prefer to come up with a plan and stick to it. That plan is the one Woodgate is attempting to enact, and the current head coach is the man they have entrusted with the responsibility of trying to bring it to fruition. Things haven’t started well, but the faith in the wider project remains.

That is not to say, however, that some modifications are not required. For a start, Woodgate could surely do with some more experienced support on his coaching staff. The former skipper insists he is happy with his current team, and claims there are any number of wise old heads he can phone if he needs support. That is not the same as having someone embedded within the system though, tweaking things on a daily basis.

Robbie Keane might turn out to be a fantastic coach, but he was still playing as recently as last November. Leo Percovich has experience of working alongside Aitor Karanka, but has spent most of his non-playing career as a goalkeeping coach. Woodgate could do with another pair of eyes, another voice willing to challenge and support him.

Boro also have to look at their recruitment operation as their signings in the five transfer windows since relegation have been disastrous. The scattergun squandering under Monk was bad enough, but as plenty of supporters have pointed out in the wake of Pulis’ latest comments, things did not improve under Boro’s most recent boss. As a time when money was becoming tight, why on earth did the Teessiders spend almost £20m on Aden Flint, George Saville and Paddy McNair, not to mention the wage payments lavished on the likes of Mo Besic, Jordan Hugill and Jon Obi Mikel?

Is there a need for an all-powerful director of football, rather than the ‘transfer committee’ that was described in Woodgate’s first press briefing? Does the scouting operation need an overhaul? Pulis regularly talked of fundamental flaws in Boro’s recruitment process and claimed he was trying to enact changes. Whatever he did, it can be argued he did not go far enough.

There will have to be recruitment in January. Regardless of money being tight, Woodgate is presiding over a squad with chronic weaknesses, especially up front. Whether through astute use of the loan market or some targeted wheeling and dealing, Boro will have to strengthen in attack. Improvements in the full-back/wing-back positions are also essential, even though that was supposed to be an area of focus last summer.

Things cannot continue as they are, but the assessment from on high is that evolution not revolution is required. Boro’s prospects over the next decade or so will be determined by the validity of that judgement.