Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate has praised his group of players and staff after winning the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month award for December.
Boro won four of their six fixtures in a hectic December schedule, a run that concluded with them becoming the first team to beat West Brom at the Hawthorns in the league this season.
That great run of form saw his men move ten points clear of the drop zone - while their current unbeaten streak at the Riverside Stadium stands at six matches.
It led to a positive start to January. They got the better of promotion-hopefuls Preston to welcome in the new year, alongside earning an FA Cup replay with Tottenham after a 1-1 draw in their third-round encounter.
"It's fantastic really to be unbeaten having played some really tough games and that was credit to the players," Woodgate exclusively told Sporting Life.
"We've played some tough teams, especially away from home, and we've got some results that we really needed to get.
"None of the results were season-defining but I thought it was really, really important that we got victories on the board. We did that and hopefully we can kick on from December."
Middlesbrough in December 2019
- 07/12 - Middlesbrough 1-0 Charlton
- 10/12 - Nottingham Forest 1-1 Middlesbrough
- 14/12 - Swansea 3-1 Middlesbrough
- 20/12 - Middlesbrough 2-1 Stoke
- 26/12 - Middlesbrough 1-0 Huddersfield
- 29/12 - West Brom 0-2 Middlesbrough
December 1: Middlesbrough in 20th - 17 points
December 31: Middlesbrough in 16th - 30 points
Middlesbrough ended November with a 4-0 defeat at Leeds but bounced back by posting four wins over Charlton, Stoke, Huddersfield and then the Baggies.
Those results have seen Boro move into 18/1 with Sky Bet to finish in the top-six this season, a contrast to the huge 250/1 outsiders they found themselves as prior to the beginning of the Christmas period.
December is the busiest month of the season with the Christmas and New Year schedules meaning that teams are required to play four games over two weeks.
That made the award even more pleasing for Woodgate, who acknowledged the levels his team performed at in a short space of time.
"The fixtures come thick and fast in the Christmas period - we all know that," he continued.
"That's what happens in the Championship and in the Premier League so the players have to be ready for it which they were.
"They performed. Once you get one win and then the next win, it breeds success really when you keep on winning games so that's really important from that point of view that we were getting them - every three days that we were playing.
"It's full credit to the players."
The victory over West Brom concluded a positive month for Woodgate's side, a result that ended West Brom's 11-game unbeaten record at home.
The Boro boss points to the performance as the most satisfying part of the that day, heaping praise on the players for keeping a positive attitude despite a slow start that brought just one win from their opening seven matches.
"The cherry on top of the cake was the performance," Woodgate stated.
"I thought we were brilliant. We put on a real solid display, won the game and had a lot of chances. I thought it could have been more than two to be honest with you.
"They put a lot of pressure on in the second-half but they're a top team in the division.
"Likewise, when we went to Preston and got that victory as well. They had 29 points from home games this season so again we realised that was going to be difficult.
"But it's not down to me, it's down to the players for keeping their heads up when times were tough at the start of the season and for their team spirit really.
"That's how you get results."
While the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month is an individual accolade, and Woodgate's first in management, he was keen to recognise the role of others around the club.
It led to him ensuring that every available member of staff at the club's Rockliffe Park training ground would participate in his photo with the award.
"I think that's the biggest thing for me, my staff behind me," he concluded.
"I wanted them all in the picture. Medical, canteen, press, secretaries - I want them all in.
"People don't see what happens behind-the-scenes at a football club. They don't realise how special these people are.
"Behind me is what makes the club tick and what makes this team tick.
"They keep the football club ticking. I'm just the person at the front."
YouInTwo - Jonathan Woodgate
Woodgate is the latest to take part in Sporting Life's YouInTwo challenge. He has two minutes to answer questions on his own career...
December's Sky Bet EFL Award Winners
MANAGERS OF THE MONTH
- Jonathan Woodgate - Middlesbrough, Championship
Six games, five wins, 13 points
- John Coleman - Accrington, League One
Five games, three wins, 11 points
- Matt Taylor - Exeter, League Two
Five games, three wins, 11 points
PLAYERS OF THE MONTH
- Conor Chaplin - Barnsley, Championship
Six games, five goals, two assists
- Alex Gilbey - MK Dons, League One
Five games, three goals
- Eoin Doyle - Swindon, League Two
Five games, five goals
Odds correct at 1145 GMT (09/01/20)