JONATHAN WOODGATE will push for the signing of players with proven Championship experience when he meets the rest of Middlesbrough’s recruitment team to finalise the club’s plans for the January transfer window.

When Woodgate took over as head coach in the summer, he agreed to a shift towards the purchase of young players with potential, bringing in Anfernee Dijksteel and Marc Bola from League One and signing Marcus Browne from West Ham United.

The long-term ambition remains a recruitment model that reduces both the age of Middlesbrough’s squad and the size of the current wage bill, which continues to run at about £22m despite a raft of recent departures.

However, with the Teessiders currently sitting in 20th position in the Championship table, one point clear of the drop zone after a run of three victories in 19 league games, there is a growing acceptance that the current squad lacks experience. As a result, there is likely to be a temporary shift away from prioritising youth when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year.

Steve Gibson and Neil Bausor remain determined to give Woodgate every opportunity to turn things around, and having accepted that a bad run of injuries has robbed the head coach of a number of influential performers, the Boro hierarchy are expected to support attempts to bring in some additional Championship knowhow.

The likes of George Friend, Ryan Shotton and Rudy Gestede have been badly missed this season, as much for their influence in the dressing room and within the group dynamic as for their performances on the pitch.

Woodgate has had to rely heavily on his youngsters, with Dael Fry, Lewis Wing and Marcus Tavernier assuming pivotal roles and both Aynsley Pears and Hayden Coulson playing more regularly than would have been anticipated at the start of the campaign.

On Saturday, as Boro crashed to a 4-0 defeat at Leeds United, Woodgate’s options from the substitutes’ bench included Nathan Wood, Patrick Reading, Ben Liddle, Stephen Walker and Tyrone O’Neill and there has even been talk of recalling Mitchell Curry from his loan spell at Inverness Caledonian Thistle with Britt Assombalonga struggling with a knock. Clearly, that is far from ideal given Boro’s struggles close to the foot of the table.

Boro’s recruitment team have been assessing a number of potential options in the last few weeks, and their targets are understood to include experienced players struggling to get a game for teams in the Premier League as well as options from the Football League.

Last January, Boro recruited John Obi Mikel as a free agent, having already signed up the experienced Mo Besic on a season-long loan from Everton, and while budgetary constraints will influence what happens at the start of next year, there is scope for a similar type of signing. The strong likelihood is that it would be a loan deal to the end of the season, which would only commit Boro to four months of expenditure on wages.

Boro’s transfer policy could also be affected by what happens in terms of outgoings, with seven senior players currently due to reach the end of their respective contracts at the end of the season.

The likes of Daniel Ayala, Jonny Howson and Adam Clayton are already attracting interest from clubs in the Championship, but while January could be the only opportunity to generate a fee for players who would otherwise be free to leave for nothing at the end of the current campaign, Woodgate will be understandably reluctant to lose anyone currently featuring in his first-team squad.