The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Bob Cass

JONATHAN Woodgate is de­ter­mined, when his football ca­reer is re­gen­er­ated, that a suc­cess­ful fu­ture in coach­ing and man­age­ment will rise phoenix-like from the ashes of a play­ing ca­reer blessed with tal­ent but cursed by a chronic in­jury record.

If the 35-year-old Mid­dles­brough cen­tral de­fender squeezes con­so­la­tion from plac­ing a Cham­pi­onship win­ners medal along­side the eight Eng­land caps which adorn his tro­phy cab­i­net, it will make his de­ci­sion to ex­tend his con­tract un­til the end of the sea­son all the more worth­while.

Woodgate has Aitkor Karanka to thank for en­cour­ag­ing him to stay on, re­vers­ing a clear in­ten­tion to hang up his boots when Boro failed to win pro­mo­tion in last sea­son’s Cham­pi­onship play-offs.

Although the River­side man­ager has gath­ered an im­pres­sive bunch of younger play­ers around him, his de­ci­sion to of­fer the Teesside-born but much-trav­elled six-footer a fur­ther 12-months re­flected his need for some­one who can pro­vide ex­am­ple, char­ac­ter and lead­er­ship, as well as ex­pe­ri­ence on the field when needed, and un­der­lined his shrewd man­age­ment tech­nique.


It also pro­vided a timely psy­cho­log­i­cal fil­lip to a player whose fight against ad­ver­sity has marked him out as one of the most re­silient ever to pull on a football shirt… another as­set that had not gone un­no­ticed by his Span­ish boss, whose affin­ity to Woodgate’s sit­u­a­tion has been un­der­lined by a year-long stall be­cause of health prob­lems in his own ca­reer as a cen­tral de­fender with Real Madrid and Atletic Bil­bao.

To say Woodgate is over­due for a break is a mas­sive un­der­state­ment. His cur­rent med­i­cal bul­letin – “I’m avail­able for se­lec­tion” – is a welcome change for some­one whose body has en­dured more cuts than the lo­cal steel in­dus­try, the clo­sure of which threat­ens to dec­i­mate the team’s fol­low­ing.

He is ready, will­ing and able to an­swer any call Karanka may want to make on him.

“The man­ager has been fan­tas­tic for me from day one here,” says Woodgate. “It’s the same for all of the play­ers. He has changed the club’s phi­los­o­phy in terms of want­ing to win ev­ery game; even ev­ery train­ing ses­sion.

“If we lose a game we re­ally know about it. Ev­ery­body is dis­ap­pointed when it hap­pens, but with this bloke it re­ally is like world war three.

“That’s some­thing I will learn from him, which is how it should be. He is cer­tainly the man to take the club for­ward.”

If the timescale of events is al­low­ing Woodgate the rare treat of be­ing able to have a clear pic­ture of his fu­ture, few would be­grudge him that.

“I’ll prob- ably be done af­ter this sea­son, but I will wait to see what hap­pens,” he said. “For now I will be there when the man­ager needs me. When he wants me to play I’ll play.

“We’ve got some ter­rific cen­tre-halves at the club who are do­ing re­ally well. I will just try and sup­port them. In train­ing I will try and of­fer ad­vice but the

team is play-

ing some great stuff at the mo­ment. “When you’ve had the in­juries I’ve had you learn to take each day as it comes. You get on with it and deal with it. You can’t mope about; you’ve just got to come back fit­ter and stronger than you were be­fore.

“Af­ter I’ve fin­ished play­ing my am­bi­tion is to go into coach­ing and then man­age­ment, but there is still an aw­ful long way to go.”

Armed with a max­i­mum port­fo­lio of qual­i­fi­ca­tions, Woodgate’s first pri­or­ity will be to get his foot on the coach­ing lad­der – and there have al­ready been hints that could come at his present club with a man­ager who, like him, can call on the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing at the high­est level of Euro­pean football.

Such an op­por­tu­nity would rule out him con­tin­u­ing as a player.


He added: “I must have worked with around 20-odd man­agers at club and in­ter­na­tional level – peo­ple like Bobby Rob­son, Terry Ven­ables, Steve McClaren, Harry Redknapp, just to men­tion a few. I’ve been lucky enough to have a football ed­u­ca­tion like that.

“I’m just about to fin­ish my UEFA B li­cence, then I’ve got my A to do.The in­ten­tion is to fol­low that with the Pro li­cence, which is go­ing to take some time, but at the mo­ment that’s my path­way. That will take three to four years.

“You can still get a coach­ing job with­out your Pro li­cence, but my aim is to get all my coach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Un­der the watch­ful eye of Mid­dles­brough’s ac­com­plished Academy man­ager David Parn­aby – whose record of pro­duc­ing top class tal­ent is un­sur­passed – Woodgate has al­ready dipped his toe into the coach­ing wa­ter.

“I have taken the Un­der-16s for odd ses­sions just to get my min­utes in for B Li­cence qual­i­fi­ca­tion,” he re­vealed.

“David has asked me to fol­low one of the teams and just help out when I can. So I’ve been do­ing that and get­ting a feel for it.

“It’s great see­ing a kid de­velop and if I can help in that de­vel­op­ment, it would be fan­tas­tic.”

But Woodgate’s long-term per­sonal am­bi­tions take sec­ond place to the main aim for Boro, which is a re­turn to the Premier League.

“To be part of a set-up which gets my home­town back where it should be would be fan­tas­tic,” Woodgate de­clared.

“And there couldn’t be a bet­ter man to get us there than the boss.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

NAT­U­RAL LEADER: Boro-born Jonathan Woodgate is hop­ing to end his play­ing ca­reer on a high

IN CHARGE: Boro boss Ai­tor Karanka is the per­fect man for the job, says Woodgate

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