Middlesbrough’s new Head Coach talks on his philosophy, ambitions and the standards he expects, after being unveiled at the Riverside Stadium
“It’s important that we have high standards at this football club,” began Jonathan Woodgate’s response to being asked how much he could “achieve in a three-year contract?”
“Like today, the press conference started at 12:30,” Woodgate continued, “it didn’t start at 12:31 and there were a few journalists who were late. It starts when it starts and that’s the standards we will be setting throughout the football club.”
Shots fired from Middlesbrough’s new Head Coach.
“I know what needs to change”
After declaring it a “huge honour” to be appointed Head Coach of the club he used to watch as a child with his father, the Nunthorpe born 39-year-old begun setting out his vision to the local and national media in attendance.
A cornerstone of that vision was an emphasis on providing a greater platform for the clubs young talent.
“I want to really promote the youth. We’ve got players who can play now and players who can play in the future.”
“I know every single player from Under-12’s to first team. I know the club inside out,” Woodgate would go on to say, as he began to settle into the hot seat.
That the former Boro defender would know the inner workings of the club is no surprise.
Having made 103 appearances over two separate spells for the club, Woodgate has been around the coaching setup since March 2017.
His first role was that of Assistant Coach, under Caretaker Manager Steve Agnew, as the club completed a disappointing season by slipping out of the Premier League.
Following Gary Monk’s appointment as Manager the following summer, Woodgate would briefly revert to assisting Mark Tinkler with the clubs Under-18’s.
But it wasn’t long until the former England international was back inside the first team setup, as Monk’s mixed start to the 2017/18 Championship campaign saw him make way for Tony Pulis before the turn of the year.
When asked about the challenges ahead, the level ambition and high standards he was looking to impress were once again apparent:
“We’ve got a fantastic squad – we can be right up there,” later adding, “I know what needs to change. I know what needs to keep going in the right direction.”
“You go up by scoring goals”
As Woodgate continued to set out his footballing philosophy, flanked by the men that put him there; Chairman Steve Gibson, Chief Executive Neil Bauser and Head of Recruitment Adrian Bevington, there was a clear intent to distinguish himself from his predecessor.
“Firstly, I want to pass the ball,” asserted Woodgate. when asked about his “brand of football.”
“Pass the ball, keep the ball. I want players to run with the ball. It’s important that when you lose the ball you win it back as quickly as possible.”
Whilst he would later praise the “grounding” given to him by Pulis, adding that “I couldn’t have done this job without his guidance,” it was clear he wanted to differentiate himself from the Welshman.
“I want to win games scoring goals.
“If you look at this league now, you go up by scoring goals.”
“We need to get more fans into the Riverside Stadium, that is without a doubt, but we need to play the football to get them in there – it’s simple.
“If we are playing attacking football, scoring goals week in week out, I know this Boro crowd will come back, 100%.”
“There’s something about him”
Plenty of reassuring words from the new man for Middlesbrough supporters then.
But what about Woodgate’s lack of managerial experience?
This was a strong theme of contention amongst fans as rumours persisted Woodgate was Steve Gibson’s preferred option, long before Friday’s eventual announcement.
Unsurprisingly, Gibson didn’t see things that way:
“Jonathan is not an inexperienced coach.
“He’s been here five years, and he was here as a player,” whilst adding, “I know the influence he had in the dressing room as a player.”
And for the Chairman who has previously given the likes of Bryan Robson, Steve McLaren and current England Manager Gareth Southgate their first taste of management, the appointment of rookie Woodgate and his new coaching team “feels right.”
“I’ve know Jonathan for a long time.
“There’s something about him.
“He’s different, and when we’ve talked about the style of play, we’re totally aligned.”
“I’ve got a hunch about this”
That new coaching team will see Leo Percovich, who was on the staff under former manager Aitor Karanka, rejoin the club as first team coach, with former Welsh international goalkeeper, Danny Coyne, coming in as goalkeeper coach.
But it is the appointment of Woodgate’s former Leeds and Spurs teammate, former Republic of Ireland striker, Robbie Keane, as Assistant Manager that catches the eye.
Speaking about his number two, Woodgate enthused:
“We all know Robbie and that he offers a lot. Can you imagine the young players at this football club learning from Robbie Keane?
“We’ve got a forward on our books, and that hasn’t always happened at this football club. It’s great that he’s with us.”
This was matched by Gibson’s excitement at the new direction the four were looking to take the club:
“What I’ve got from this bunch is enthusiasm and unbelievable experience.
“I’m just very happy to have these four here… I’ve got a hunch about this, I hope.”