HE might have a young squad at his disposal, but Jonathan Woodgate is happy to read the riot act on his Middlesbrough young guns – provided it is required.

Even when Woodgate has delivered a few home truths to his players in his first season since taking over from Tony Pulis, he has quickly put an arm round them the following day.

He has learned that character trait from Sir Bobby Robson, having loved working under the former England boss during his time at Newcastle United.

Woodgate has taken that approach into management with him, as he looks to keep Middlesbrough away from relegation trouble ahead of a double-header with two sides in the bottom three, Luton Town and Barnsley.

Tuesday’s draw at Wigan, another side sitting in the drop zone, left him deeply frustrated given the manner in which Middlesbrough recovered from falling behind to edge ahead. Despite having a man sent off, the Latics levelled through Harold Moukoudi’s own goal.

When Woodgate faced the media afterwards he was calm and collected, like he has been so often this season. It has, at times, been a different story behind-closed-doors in the dressing room.

“I wouldn’t come into a press conference and really lose it. I lose it with the players but the next day it is forgotten about. I’m not that manager who will hold grudges,” said Woodgate. “If I hammer you, I hammer you face to face and if I praise you I praise you, but you have to take it.

“If we had poor performances or it hasn’t been good enough, I’ll lose it like, I’ll go mental. There’s a line in the sand and if people step over it you’ve got to nail them. It can’t be regular when you’re in the position we’re in. You have to keep the players confident.

“If you do it too many times it becomes the norm. It depends on the display. Even if we win, that’s the best time to do it.”

Given how youthful the Middlesbrough squad is there would be a perception that he might have to tread even more carefully in case they go into a shell.

“I’ll tell them. They take it. The next day I bring them in and I tell them every word I’ve said I meant,” said Woodgate. “I’ll say this is what you need to do better but this is what you’ve done really well. They’ll walk out feeling better.

“It’s different ways of man-management. I’ve said about Bobby Robson before, he’d say something to me after the game and I’d take it on the chin. He’d get me in the next game and tell me again, but then he’d say look at this, look at how well you’ve been doing, and you come out and you don’t even remember the bolllocking.”

Middlesbrough head into today’s date with Luton looking to end a run of six league games without a win and it is hard to predict what formation and line-up Woodgate will opt for. Woodgate has explained his reasons for mixing things up. He said: “When we had the run, the four we won, we played four different formations. We might have played wing-backs but we might have played four at times, and even variations of the three at the back.

“We went to West Brom and played 4-2-3-1. I need to find a way to win. At times we haven’t got the squad to go and match a team, we have to try to find a way to win.”

And has he learned much since the opening night draw at Luton, he said: “I still have my principles and how I want the game to be played. You can see that from last year to this year, we try to be more attacking and play through the pitch from last year. That’s not to say any system is wrong, but that’s the style of play I have wanted to be better.

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons, I’ve learned that with the 4-3-3 formation that we wanted to play right at the start that didn’t always work. I don’t think we had that real No 6 who can dominate a game in a one, I think if we are going to do that we need a two.

“It’s been a learning curve, I’ve really enjoyed it. There have been some tough situations especially at the start. At this point we haven’t won in six, so you can look at it either way. If we win this game then it’s one loss in five.”