Woodgate Arrives
By Rob Nichols
Friday 14 Jun 2019 15:50:00
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Jonathan Woodgate is new Head Coach at the Boro. That news became official today as he was formerly introduced to the press at Hurworth this lunch time. But today was not just about a new Boro boss but also about unveiling a new direction, ideology or philosophy for the club. And also heralding in an era of shared responsibilities. As beginnings go it was impressive. Obviously we have all been here before but this feels right. Steve Gibson said as much. It could be something to believe in but for now it has to be worth a punt.

the new team behind the team

Flanking Woodgate behind the manager's desk were chairman Steve Gibson, CEO Neil Bausor and Adrian Bevington Head of Recruitment Operations. Down in the front of row of the seats were Robbie Keane, Danny Coyne and Leo Percovich the new Boro bench. The men behind the desk were all impeccably smart, in ties and blazers. At the request of the new boss. Actually Steve Gibson had earned a rebuke for forgetting his tie. As he outlined to us, for Woodgate it is all about setting standards and he wants the bar to be very high at Middlesbrough, right throughout the club.

What can I say about today? I will hold up many hands and say I was initially disappointed when we were linked to the former defender being promoted from within. I thought the know-how and experience of a proven promotion achiever like Slaviša Jokanović could unite the fan base and recharge the fires once more. Or even some of the left field names being thrown into the ring, shadowy figures from Europe they might have brought with it some of that allure of the early Karanka-chief era.

But then came all the fan vitriol towards Jonathan Woodgate. He hasn't got his badges. He is thick as two short planks. He used crayons for his presentation. I am sorry but that is nothing short of character assassination and so utterly disrespectful. More and more I find myself disgusted at a lack of respect shown by people, towards people, not just in football either. I think I am turning into a Tony Mowbray acolyte.

I also thought about Jonathan Woodgate, the sublime footballer, a man that could read the game like few others. At his best he was up there in a bracket with Maddren, Pallister and Southgate as exceptional footballing defenders.

I then thought about how different the Woodgate that returned to Middlesbrough seemed to be. I hadn't spoken to him much in this time but he seemed far more personable, more welcoming and above all had the look of someone with real focus.

I had heard stories about how as a senior pro and club captain he kept an eye out on everyone at the club. It was almost as if he was taking notes for this day. But it went beyond that. I was told about how he would take youngsters to one side and give them detailed advice. It was advice that came on the back of having watched them play. He took the time and he cared.

Apparently the interview process was no walk in the park, it was a serious presentation followed by several hours of in depth discussion and questioning. Far from being a question of “jobs for the boys,” Woodgate may actually have had more to prove than everyone else. Being close at hand it seemed he was available for more than one grilling and not just from Gibson but the whole hierarchy at the club.

We are told there were numerous approaches and interviews and not just for Head Coach but for all the coaching staff yet in the end Jonathan Woodgate's first picks were selected. Didn't they all look delighted to be part of this?

And finally Jonathan Woodgate himself, a boyhood Boro fan he was clearly hardly able to believe he was now going to be leading his team on the pitch. He could not suppress the smile and the pride welled up. When he mentioned what it would have meant to his late father, it brought a lump to his and also everyone else's throats.

The football is still some way off and that is when the talking stops. But you know what this did feel like something to get behind. Robbie Keane working with the forwards. Bernie Slaven will not be the only person to love that idea. Leo, bringing all his wealth of international experience as well as that passion and unique relationship with the supporters.

A pledge to play attractive, attacking football. A pressing game that gets the fans on the edge of their seats and keeps them there. What is not to like about that?

There will definitely still be doubts in many peoples minds. Bound to be. There is baggage in the background from Woodgate's early career. He hasn't got managerial experience either. But people do change. People do learn and they do grow.

Woodgate did impress today. His new backroom staff impressed. The way he told a couple of reporters any myself off for being late (we thought we had sneaked in) it was all part of an impressive new beginning.

For the first time in several seasons the entire Boro hierarchy were there to support their new man or men. It was a bold statement. It was a shouldering of collective responsibility. Steve Gibson said he had a hunch this could go well. The hard work starts now but here's hoping it pays off. #UTB

with thanks for photo to Tom Banks MFC



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