JONATHAN WOODGATE is adamant he does not have to sell in order to bring in new signings next month despite conceding that Middlesbrough are operating close to the financial limits permitted under the Football League’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Woodgate takes his side to Swansea City this afternoon looking to build on Tuesday night’s spirited showing at Nottingham Forest and increase the four-point gap currently separating Boro from the relegation zone.

However, as well as preparing his players for the trip to the Liberty Stadium, Woodgate, who spent Thursday night chatting with chairman Steve Gibson, has also been turning his attention to the January transfer window.

He is keen to recruit some reinforcements at the turn of the year, but reports at the start of the week suggested he could have to allow some players to leave before he would be in a position to start bringing in new signings. Darren Randolph has been heavily linked with a possible return to his former club, West Ham United, while Daniel Ayala is known to be the subject of interest from at least three of Boro’s Championship rivals.

Woodgate accepts that the FFP rules will limit his room for manoeuvre next month, but the Boro boss is insistent he does not have to agree to any departures in order to free up some space on the wage bill.

“I don’t have to sell to bring in players next month, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “I’m sure there’ll be money there, and I’m sure I’ll have the final say on who comes in and who goes. That’s all you really want as a head coach, and I’ll be working hard with the chairman, who has been top drawer.

“We know we need players in, and hopefully we can get a few wins over the next five games before the transfer window opens and climb up the league and be in a bit of a different position then.

“Let’s just see when January comes, who we get and who we don’t get. Is there room to wriggle? Of course, there is. If we want players, we can get players. Wait until January, and see what we get.”

Woodgate’s meeting with Gibson provided an opportunity to discuss the first four months of the season, and address some of the pressure that had been building on Boro’s head coach in the wake of his side’s four-goal thrashing at Leeds United.

Gibson spoke to Woodgate when Neil Warnock was touted as a possible managerial alternative in the aftermath of the game at Elland Road, spelling out his determination to stick with the project that was put in place in the summer.

The Boro chairman remains as supportive as ever, and while Woodgate was always confident he would be given time to bed in and get his ideas across, he nevertheless remains extremely grateful to be working for an owner who has consistently avoided kneejerk reactions to a bad spell.

“He doesn’t just believe in me, he believes in the group together,” said Woodgate. “We said it wasn’t going to be a short-term fix. You know what sort of chairman he is – he’s a top chairman – and we speak regularly on the phone.

“That’s good. It’s good to have a relationship with the owner. I know the owner – some managers don’t even know their owner, how bad is that? I know my owner, which is the perfect scenario for me. You’ve got a young manager with an owner who cares about the club, loves the club, and I know him. Some managers don’t even know their owner, terrible, although it’s not the managers’ fault.”

Woodgate has had to contend with a succession of injury setbacks this season, but he finally received some good news earlier this week when scans revealed Britt Assombalonga’s ankle injury is not as bad as first feared.

Assombalonga’s ankle was damaged in a foul by Darren Pratley in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Charlton, and having left the Riverside Stadium on crutches, the club’s leading scorer was forced to miss Tuesday’s draw at Nottingham Forest.

It was initially feared he might have suffered serious ligament damage, but scans have revealed a much more minor issue.

Assombalonga is yet to resume full training, and is therefore likely to be a substitute at best this afternoon, but he has been able to take part in some light work this week and should be available for Boro’s festive programme.

“The scans have shown the injury is not as bad as it might have been, or that we first feared,” said Woodgate. “That’s a massive boost for us, but I need him to be right.

“There’s a big pile of fixtures coming now as we head into the Christmas period, so I need Britt to be right. I don’t want to risk him if he’s 60-40 or 70-30 because I need him for the games that are coming.

“Britt hasn’t trained fully with the group yet, but he’s been in the sandpit and doing work in the pool. We’ll see how he is.”

While Assombalonga is a doubt for today’s game, Lewis Wing, Marcus Browne and Rudy Gestede are all available for the trip to the Liberty Stadium.

Darren Randolph, Anfernee Dijksteel, George Friend and Ryan Shotton remain out of action though as they continue to nurse long-term problems.

Since losing heavily to Leeds, Boro have taken four points from matches against Charlton and Nottingham Forest, and with Swansea’s form having dipped after they made a strong start to the season, the Teessiders have travelled to South Wales in a confident mood.

“We’ve played well of late, really well, and hopefully that continues,” said Woodgate. “They’ll be thinking they can beat us, we’ll be thinking we can beat them. You need to know whether your team is going to turn up, and at the minute my team is turning up and giving me everything.”

Middlesbrough (probable, 5-3-1-1): Pears; Spence, Howson, Ayala, Fry, Coulson; McNair, Wing, Saville; Tavernier; Fletcher.