RELEGATION is something Jonny Howson has endured three times already in his career, and he is convinced Jonathan Woodgate is the right man to maintain a positive outlook and keep Middlesbrough in the Championship this season.

Concerns have grown on Teesside once again given the manner of Boro’s eighth defeat of the season at leaders Leeds United on Saturday, when the 4-0 scoreline was the club’s heaviest defeat in approaching seven years.

The reversal actually lifted Middlesbrough up a place in the table because of Luton Town’s 7-0 battering at Brentford, but that did nothing to disguise how ineffective they were in trying to deal with the threat of an excellent Leeds.

Middlesbrough’s supporters, while largely supportive of Woodgate in more frugal times at the Riverside, are concerned that League One football could be on the cards because they have now won just three times in the first 19 games under him.

Howson knows exactly what relegation feels like having suffered that fate twice from the Premier League with Norwich in 2014 and 2016, while he also dropped out of the Championship when Leeds became a League One club for the first time in 2007.

The 31-year-old senses a difference between the moods within the dressing rooms compared to Middlesbrough this time around, and he thinks Woodgate has enough within the camp to keep second tier football on Teesside.

“I’ve been in this situation with Leeds and Norwich, where I was relegated,” said Howson. “It’s not a nice feeling but I firmly believe this squad we’ve got, we’ve got lads to come back from injury as well, will have enough.

“It’s part and parcel not just of football, but life, that you will have to go through tough times. Tough people will survive it and I believe we’ve got tough people in the dressing room and on the staff.

“I’m not just saying this, but this is a better atmosphere. Sometimes it can sound as if you’re just saying to the fans it but it is a good atmosphere even though we’re at the wrong end of the table.

“OK, we’re disappointed at not getting the wins and in losing games but as a team we’re sticking together, working for each other and staying on the right side of each other. Everyone’s so positive.

“It’s not getting away from the fact we are disappointed with results, but whatever happened on the weekend we start the week with everyone ready to go again. That’s probably been different to when I have been in positions like this in the past.”

The fans have not turned on Woodgate publicly, even though there are more hints of it on social media after losing at Leeds.  There is a bigger perception and criticism of the overall picture, with fans frustrated by an approach which has seen them cut costs to fall in line with Financial Fair Play rules and recruitment has been poor over a few seasons.  Howson, a boyhood Leeds fan who is playing for a player who he adored at Elland Road in Woodgate, is convinced that Middlesbrough’s rookie boss has the right mentality and style to keep the team up this season.

“He can get us out of it,” said Howson. “It plays a major part in it that he's so positive and he gives us the belief to stick to it. That's only going to help us.

“Everyone's still in it together. It's sometimes hard for us as players and staff because you feel like you're saying the same things.  “I'm sure sometimes have got to come out and say that but the honest truth is everyone is still together and working hard, and there's not much more I can tell you than that. People have got to trust us and we've got to stick together.”

Howson is out of contract in the summer and he does not want to arrive at the point of discussing a new deal following relegation to League One. His performances over the last two seasons, in a variety of positions, have made him one of the most dependable and effective players in the squad.

The 31-year-old was the most experienced man in a Middlesbrough shirt at Elland Road and when youngsters Ben Liddle, Tyrone O’Neill and Stephen Walker came on the pitch in the second half he was impressed with what they had to offer.

He thinks that while there is a clear frustration at the lack of options for Woodgate to call on, Howson is certain that having so many talented young players emerging can help almost as much as having a player in the ranks who has achieved as much in his career as he has.

He said: “Of course my experience can help but the young lads can help the others out because they come in and play without fear. They're probably more concentrated with making their debut or just starting out, whatever it might be. That can be a positive for the team.

“If I believe there are young lads there who need a little chat to, I will do that and I'm not the only one that could do that in this squad.

“But these young lads understand the situation and they play without fear. Apart from ourselves, no one sees us day in, day out on the training pitch and everyone's fully together. On Monday morning everyone will be ready to go again and trying to effect the game against Charlton.”

It is a sign of where Middlesbrough’s squad is right now that Liddle, O’Neill and Walker all had to play against Leeds, plus Aynsley Pears was in the side as a replacement of Darren Randolph. other Under-23s players Nathan Wood and Patrick Reading were both on the bench too.

To have headed to Elland Road, where Marcelo Bielsa’ side are flying at the top of the Championship and look strong contenders for the title, in that shape was clearly not ideal, particularly when the starting line-up isn’t firing at all.

“That defeat obviously wasn't what I was hoping for, irrespective of going back to an old club. After winning in midweek we wanted to build on that but I was very disappointed with the result,” said Howson.  “We obviously need a little bit of help and the injuries are not helping having some senior players out. The lads that came on, congratulations to them for making their debut and I thought when Lidds came on he added a bit of bite and showed we have got something there, it's not just a case of putting them in for the sake of it.

“I'm a bit biased because I see them day in, day out, but they're not just making the numbers up, they have got ability and passion.

“As an experienced player I can understand why people think we might not have enough but I firmly believe we've got enough in the squad over the course of the season. We will be fine. As a player all you can do is concentrate on yourself and help the ones that are here now. I can't effect who's not here.”

Middlesbrough are unlikely to have any of the injured group of players back for the visit of Charlton to the Riverside this Saturday.