Derby County v Middlesbrough - Coaching experience not an issue for Boro duo – Woodgate

On the face of it, today’s match at Pride Park pitches experienced coach Phillip Cocu against novices but Middlesbrough’s coaching staff are not as green as they are made out to be, according to Jonathan Woodgate.

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate (left) and assistant Robbie Keane. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate (left) and assistant Robbie Keane. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Derby County manager Cocu has won two Dutch titles and a cup with PSV Eindhoven, managed in Turkey and served as Netherlands assistant manager.

Woodgate and his assistant Robbie Keane, both 39, are just starting out in coaching but the former argues they do not lack experience.

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“As a management team, we are young but in terms of football, we have a lot of experience,” said former Real Madrid and Leeds United centre-back Woodgate, who takes charge of his 16th competitive match. “We’ve both been in the game since we were teenagers.

Derby County manager Phillip Cocu. Picture: Bradley Collyer/PA

“Keano made his debut at 17, I was 18, so there are a lot of experiences. Robbie has worked in the international set-up with the Republic of Ireland too.

“I have Leo (Percovich) there who has been at this club when it was successful, Danny Coyne, who has previously been a manager and assistant manager, it’s not just about me and Robbie.

“It’s me, Robbie, Leo, Danny, Frankie (Hunter, head of sports science) JT (John Thrower, Boro’s rehab coach), we are all in this together and we all have different ways and experiences with the team.”

Boro are the lowest scorers in this season’s Championship, but that is where Woodgate thinks the much-travelled Keane can make a big difference.

“He can be a big help with our strikers,” he commented. “He has been there and done it. He can appreciate at times what they are going through and what it will be like for them mentally as players.

“We all know that if you work as hard as you possibly can, something will drop. I always say the harder you work, the luckier you get. Things will happen in games where sometimes you don’t expect a goal to go in. I’ll take anything at the minute.”

At the other end it has been about laying solid foundations, with Woodgate settling on a formation which features a midfield diamond in front of a back five.

“I think it’s going to be a good base for us,” said Woodgate.

“I think it suits our players more.

“We’ve only really got one natural winger, and that’s Marvin Johnson.”