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Woodgate thriving on Championship life with Boro
AFTER emerging largely unscathed from one of the most demanding weeks of his career, Jonathan Woodgate insists he is enjoying the highs, lows and strains of the Championship.
When Woodgate performed to his best at Ewood Park on Friday night to help Boro to a 2-1 win over the early leaders in the division he was playing his third game inside six days.
Such a hectic programme left him nursing a tightness in his hamstring, but nothing that should keep him out of Middlesbrough's next Championship date with Leicester City on Saturday.
He will be rested for tomorrow's Capital One Cup tie at Preston and that is little wonder given the recent strains on a body which has had to deal with more than its fair share of injury problems during his playing days.
"I can't remember the last time I will have had a run like that ... probably when I was at Spurs and we might have had three games in seven," said Woodgate.
"I don't want to miss games. That's what I have told the manager and I'm enjoying it - even if it means playing as many as that.
"The Premier League probably wouldn't allow it. The Championship is totally different. It's crammed. It's Tuesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday. It's something like seven games in three weeks we have got. They come thick and fast. We have a big squad, good players, so I think we can cope."
After defeating Ipswich at the Riverside ten days ago, Middlesbrough were given a shock to the system at Blackpool last Tuesday when Ian Holloway's team ran Mowbray's men ragged.
But then Middlesbrough responded with an effective performance at Ewood Park to claim six points from nine to lift them back up the table and in to contention with the top six.
Such nights, Woodgate claims, are why the 32-year-old decided to turn down offers to stay in the Premier League and return to his Teesside roots.
He said: "It's important to win football matches whatever division you are in, that was the same on Friday, but it definitely meant a little more that it was against the league leaders.
"Blackburn could have gone eight points clear of us so we didn't want that. It was a big victory and it shows we can win away from home.
"Mentally we have now shown we can win away from home. The longer that went on we would have started to think 'well can we win away? Other people would as well. More and more. Fans would have thought about it. We had to put down a marker and where better than at the league leaders. It was a big game for us."
Woodgate and Andre Bikey's partnership at the heart of the Middlesbrough defence already looks promising. And while the pair are unlikely to play at Deepdale tomorrow, they should be reunited at the Riverside on Saturday.
And Woodgate, who turned in his best display at Blackburn since his return to the club, admits that life in the Championship is a totally new experience to his days in the top-flight.
"On a personal level I wanted to prove people wrong that said I wouldn't play again, but I enjoy going in to work, training," said Woodgate. "I love it in the Championship, I'm enjoying it.
"It's miles different to the Premier League, that's why so many teams struggle when they go up. Everything is different. The way teams attack, they move, everything is different. That's why they are paid so much money in the Premier League, why it's top.
"But it's been good so far, really good. I just want to keep helping this club move in the right direction and keeping winning, which makes it even more enjoyable."