AFTER being handed the first manager of the month award of his fledgling managerial career, Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate has described how he will continue to do things his way regardless of what people think of him.

One defeat in eight matches has seen Boro emerge from a hugely difficult period in the Championship by climbing clear of the relegation zone and closer to the top ten.

It has been a turnaround achieved with the satisfaction of playing young players in the second tier of English football, with the likes of Hayden Coulson, Djed Spence and Aynsley Pears all proving he was right to promote them from the Under-23s.

Confidence is growing too, highlighted by last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham at the Riverside Stadium, after the brilliant run of results over the festive period when Middlesbrough won three games in a row.

Those victories, following a heavy defeat at Leeds at the end of November, were part of just one defeat from a six-game run last month that has earned Woodgate the Sky Bet manager of the month award for December in the Championship.

The standard of the performances has earned Woodgate greater respect from the fans and the media nationally, having only taken on his first head coach’s role following Tony Pulis’ exit last summer.

Woodgate said: “Maybe I am changing the way people look at me, but that’s the least of my worries to be honest with you. The most important thing is the players, and trying to get more fans in the stadium.

“If I get criticised, I get criticised. And I can guarantee this, there will be plenty more times this season when I get criticised. But you know what, I’ll take it. I’ve had it for a lot of my career, I get it and I move on. If we’re getting wins then people will say fair play to him, he’s done OK.”

Woodgate is planning to give the manager of the month award to his son, Carter, and he hopes it will be the first of many honours during a successful career.

But he is not focused on the longer term, he wants to keep Middlesbrough heading in the right direction having been rewarded for handing youth a chance in recent months – and staying faithful to the likes of Ashley Fletcher, who is playing his best football for the club.

“I’m proud, but I’m nothing without my staff,” said Woodgate. “It’s all about the staff who are behind me. That’s not just my coaches, it’s all my staff at the training ground.

“They’re the biggest part of it all for me. They’re the ones who keep the place ticking, I just deal with the players. The players have been absolutely fantastic in the month of December. The previous months have been tough, but they’ve stayed with it and stayed confident, so all credit to them.”

Middlesbrough’s impressive run has lifted Woodgate’s team to within eight points of the play-off zone, which is clearly still a sizeable gap to close. He is not even thinking along those lines, he just wants to see performances and points continue to roll in.

Wayne Rooney arrives on Teesside with Derby County on Saturday and they sit just a place below Middlesbrough, so it represents another big fixture for both teams.

“We’ve had some good results. I don’t think many Boro fans thought we would win at West Brom or Preston, but we did really well,” said Woodgate. “I thought we would, and the players did, and that’s the most important thing.

“Once week you get one good result like that it snowballs and you remain confident. When you start winning games, you really believe in yourself. We can’t get complacent. That’s the biggest thing that can kill you in an instant.”