MIDDLESBROUGH head coach Jonathan Woodgate has pledged to justify Steve Gibson’s decision to hand him his first senior management role – as he aims to successfully follow in the footsteps of former England team-mates Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
Woodgate has signed a three-year contract and will be assisted by his former Leeds United and Spurs team-mate Robbie Keane, who will combine his role with his duties as an assistant to Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.
Uruguay-born Leo Percovich, a popular figure at the club during the Aitor Karanka era, has returned to the backroom set-up, with ex-Boro custodian Danny Coyne named as the new goalkeeping coach.
Not for the first time, Boro chairman Gibson has proved not to be fazed by handing a former leading player his maiden role in management, most successfully shown when he brought ex-Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson to Teesside in the mid-Nineties.
Managerial breaks were also given to Gareth Southgate, Steve McClaren and Aitor Karanka with Gibson hopeful that his ‘hunch’ regarding Woodgate being a success will also prove astute.
I am proud as punch. When I talk about family, it is my dad I mean really, he would be proud. It is my son’s (Carter) birthday, so I will remember this day as long as I live.Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate
Woodgate said: “You need a chairman who has got a great desire to put a manager in who has never had a chance before.
“That is what you need, a man who is going to back you and I have got that with our chairman.
“Frank (Lampard) was given a chance and has done a fantastic job and if you look at Steven Gerrard, he has as well. So have Scott Parker and Lee Bowyer.
“Frank has done a brilliant job and I hope he does the Chelsea job because it would be great to see an English coach running a Champions League team.”
Woodgate is certainly not short of influences to draw upon, having served under a number of household managerial names including Sir Bobby Robson, Terry Venables, David O’Leary and Harry Redknapp.
In terms of his playing style, the former centre-half will stay true to his upbringing under those aforesaid managers and has pledged to co-ordinate a style makeover at Boro – with the emphasis being on fast-paced, attacking football.
He has also vowed to provide a pathway for young players to the senior squad and says he will blood more of the club’s talented academy products.
“If you look at the teams I have played in they have all been quite attacking,” he added. “At Spurs with Robbie, it was an attacking team, we’d sometimes defend two on two at the back. It was the same at Leeds with Lucas Radebe and Rio (Ferdinand), with full-backs pushing on.
“I have not spoken to any of my former managers yet, but I will do. I will be tapping into them because I am not the finished article and I need to keep on learning.”
Woodgate has revealed that decisions regarding transfer targets will now be co-ordinated by a committee compromising of himself and members of the Boro hierarchy and it is something that he is comfortable with – while conscious that the club must adhere to Financial Fair Play requirements and adopt a considered approach in their dealings.
“I am head coach, not a manager,” he added. “We cannot go from one system to another system where someone spends £20m and someone else spends £30m and then someone else comes in and does not like the players. You are going to spend a lot of money and it is not going to work.
“We will have a committee between us and the coaching staff will have a big role to play in it.”
Woodgate professed to a sense of pride after becoming just the third Teessider to be handed the reins at Boro – following on from the late Willie Maddren and Tony Mowbray.
It represents a poignant moment for the 39-year-old, who started watching games at Ayresome Park as a six-year-old with his late father Alan.
He said: “I am proud as punch. When I talk about family, it is my dad I mean really, he would be proud. It is my son’s (Carter) birthday, so I will remember this day as long as I live. He is a Boro fan and, hopefully, he will be like me and love the club like I do.”