Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate has admitted that having a number of the club’s senior players out of contract at the end of the season is a worry for him in the build-up to the January transfer window.
As things stand, seven senior players: Daniel Ayala; George Friend; Ryan Shotton; Jonny Howson; Marvin Johnson; Adam Clayton and Rudy Gestede are all set to see their deals with the club expire at the end of the current campaign, meaning they could walk away from the club for free in the summer.
That is something Woodgate conceded could be a distraction for some of those concerned, as he told the Northern Echo: “It can be unsettling for the players, not knowing where their future is, but their job is to play for the club they’re at now, it’s as simple as that.
“They can’t look to the future because you never know what’s going to happen in football.”
Despite that, Woodgate is hopeful that the experience of that group of players will help them cope with the situation they find themselves in, as he continued: “I’ve got strong characters in that dressing room, and if you look at the seven lads who are out (of contract), they’re pretty much all senior players. They know the craic, they know what it is.”
Discussing his involvement in the decision on who could stay and who could leave the club, as well as the timescale around those decisions, Woodgate went onto claim: “I’ll have a say on who stays.
“With the seven lads being out of contract, I’ll have a say over who stays out of them. My head’s on the chopping block, and there are some really good players in that list of seven, some really good players.
“Is there any chance of it being resolved quickly? You’re asking the wrong man. If we have news of something, we’ll tell you.
“I’m sure Neil and the chairman are speaking with representatives of players, I’m sure that’s happening. But when we’ve got some news, I’ll let you know.”
It has been a challenging start to the season for Middlesbrough, who currently find themselves 22nd in the Championship standings with just two league wins all season, going into their clash with Hull City on Sunday.
In some ways, I do feel sorry for Woodgate here.
On top of everything else he has had to cope with since taking over as manager in the summer, dealing with the future of so many important players is unlikely to be easy, and this at least, is not a situation that he could have done anything about prior to taking over.
Indeed, with ‘Boro themselves currently struggling at the wrong end of the table, and interest in some of those out of contract players arising from elsewhere, it could be difficult for Woodgate and co. to secure some of these player’s futures at the Riverside Stadium.
From an individual perspective however, having to deal with a situation such this so early on in his managerial career, is an experience could serve Woodgate well should it emerge for him again at another point further down the line, either at Middlesbrough or somewhere else.