GIVEN the unceremonious manner in which he was removed from his position last June, it would have been easy for Jonathan Woodgate to have wished ill on Middlesbrough in the final eight matches of last season. After all, he had just been removed from his dream position, with Steve Gibson concluding that Woodgate’s hometown club would be better off without one of its most famous footballing sons.

Teesside blood runs thick though. Yes, Woodgate was smarting. Yes, he was convinced he could do just as good a job as Neil Warnock, who was brought in to replace him. But for all of that, he still could not find it within himself to turn his back on the team that still means so much to him. When Middlesbrough clambered to safety in the final weeks of last season, no one was cheering more passionately that the man who had been cast aside.

“I got a code to watch all of Middlesbrough’s games because I wanted them to do well,” he said. “I know a lot of staff at the club personally who I’m friends with, a lot of people behind the scenes, and if they’d have gone down, they might have lost their jobs.

“That’s the last thing I would have wanted to see – people who I know, in that situation. So, I’m pleased they had the run they did, even though, in my view, we’d have still stayed up anyway…”

If the sentiment of Woodgate’s comments confirm the strength of his enduring bond with the Boro, the pay-off line hints at a lingering resentment over the way in which his first managerial job was brought to an end.

The 3-0 home defeat to Swansea that followed the end of lockdown might have been the moment Gibson decided he had to act, but Woodgate remains convinced it was not a harbinger of what would have inevitably followed had he remained in his post.

The Teessider admits he made mistakes during his year in charge – a degree of learning on the job was surely inevitable given he was stepping into an entirely new position – and if he was to have his time again, he would almost certainly have appointed a more experienced backroom assistant to work alongside him.

That said, though, he remains convinced he was setting Boro on the right path, bringing through a batch of younger players, many of whom have continued to progress under Warnock.

Today, having been handed the opportunity to take over at Bournemouth when Jason Tindall was dismissed at the start of February, Woodgate finds himself managing against Middlesbrough for the first time.

He is adamant revenge is not on his mind, even though a Bournemouth win this afternoon would almost certainly mean the end of Boro’s lingering play-off hopes. He will always have a close relationship with Middlesbrough, but in a footballing sense at least, he has moved on.

“I’ve got no point to prove,” said Woodgate. “The only point I’ve got to prove is to myself, to get Bournemouth into the play-off positions and into the Premier League. That’s my objective.

“There’ll be no emotion, you’ve just got to get on with it. I’ll have to be cold when I’m out there. I’ve got to make the right decisions, and there’ll be no emotion attached to the game for me.

“I want Bournemouth to win. I’m manager of their football club. I hold a lot of respect for Middlesbrough Football Club, they’re doing well this season, and they’ve got a really good manager in there who’s got eight promotions and who did well with them last season. They’ve brought ten players in this season, so they’ve given it a real go and they’re up there.”

So, now that the dust has settled, does Woodgate regret saying yes when Gibson came calling back in the summer of 2019? Like Gareth Southgate before him, who also struggled to deal with the transition from the Rockliffe Park dressing room to the manager’s office, was he inevitably setting himself up for a fall?

“There was a weight of expectation there,” said Woodgate. “But if I get offered a job, I’m not going to say no, am I? I’m going to take it. I’m an ambitious guy."