JONATHAN WOODGATE has been assured his job as Middlesbrough head coach is safe, and is confident Steve Gibson appreciates the scale of the challenges he is trying to overcome as he attempts to guide his side up the Championship table.

Boro return to action when they host Charlton Athletic this afternoon, but the problems continue to pile up with the Teessiders just one point above the relegation zone.

Anfernee Dijskteel requires knee surgery that will sideline him for three months, George Friend will not be available until February at the earliest and both Darren Randolph and Ryan Shotton face at least another month on the sidelines. To make matters worse this afternoon, Paddy McNair and Marvin Johnson are both unable to face Charlton as they are serving suspensions.

Woodgate could hardly have wished for a tougher introduction to management, and earlier this week, the 39-year-old found himself reading national newspaper headlines suggesting he was about to replaced by Neil Warnock.

His job is not in immediate jeopardy, as was confirmed by a telephone conversation with Gibson in which the Middlesbrough owner sought to reassure him about the security of his role.

“Did it (the Warnock story) worry me? It was quite easy to forget about it to be honest because the chairman rings you five minutes later to tell you it’s a load of nonsense,” said Woodgate, who will come up against his former Leeds United team-mate, Lee Bowyer, in the Charlton dug-out this afternoon.

“I don’t always believe what I read in the papers and I certainly didn’t believe that. The chairman clarified it immediately, he said it’s not true, it’s 100 per cent not true. I didn't believe it in the first place to be honest.

“Listen, no one is happy, no one likes to be in the position that we are. The chairman certainly isn’t happy, but he’s behind me and just said it’s a load of nonsense. I’ve got no insecurity or anything like that.

“I see him (Gibson) weekly and we’re regularly on the phone. He’s a fantastic chairman, he’s shown that over the years at this football club with how he’s treated his managers, what he believes and how he wants to go about things.”

Gibson appointed Woodgate because he wanted to embark on a new approach that would prioritise the development of young players at a time when the Football League’s Financial Fair Play regulations are forcing Boro to reduce their current wage bill.

That remains the long-term direction of travel, and while there might be a push to recruit some more experience when the transfer window reopens at the start of next month, there is no desire to rip up the template that was introduced in the summer.

Woodgate remains an integral part of that, with Gibson, Neil Bausor and Adrian Bevington acknowledging that the fates have conspired against the head coach in the first four months of the season.

A host of long-term injuries have gutted what was already a paper-thin squad, resulting in the need to name the likes of Stephen Walker, Ben Liddle and Tyrone O’Neill on the substitutes’ bench at Leeds last weekend. All three are likely to remain in the matchday 18 this afternoon.

“I definitely think the chairman understands the situation,” said Woodgate. “If you look at the squad, it’s really unbalanced and thin, and I’m sure he understands that, but we have to fit in amongst the FFP rules.

“We need a few more players in, we’ve said that before and we’ll see what we can do in January. If someone comes along that we can do a deal for, then fair enough. But there’s seven games between now and January and I like to focus on the players we’ve got at the club at the minute.”

Britt Assombalonga is one of those players, and Boro’s leading scorer will continue to play through the pain barrier this afternoon.

His partnership with Ashley Fletcher is likely to be crucial to Boro’s hopes of hauling themselves away from the bottom three, and while both players have suffered injury problems this season, their determination to make themselves available is indicative of the type of commitment Woodgate is going to need over the next six months.

“Britt should be fine,” he said. “I wouldn’t say he's 100 per cent, but he should be okay to play the game. I know what he can bring, especially when he's on form. He's been doing really well of late – he’s got the bit between his teeth and is really aggressive.

“He's a handful for any defender. It's not easy (with injury), but he's one of those players who will play when he's not 100 per cent. I need people who want to do that and who work as hard as they can for the team.”

Boro host a Charlton side who have won just one of their last ten matches, but who could be about to welcome long-term injury victim Lyle Taylor back into their side.

“They play good football,” said Woodgate. “They've got Conor Gallagher in the middle of the pitch – he’s from Chelsea and they took a chance on him in his first loan.

“They've got Lyle Taylor back, and he was a very good player before his injury. That's probably why they had a slump in form, because he missed a lot of games. They're a really good team, but hopefully we can get the win.”

Middlesbrough (probable, 3-5-2): Pears; Fry, Ayala, Wood; Howson, Tavernier, Wing, Saville, Bola; Fletcher, Assombalonga.