England boss Gareth Southgate opens up on his journey into management at Middlesbrough

Gareth Southgate has lifted the lid on his time at Middlesbrough
Gareth Southgate has lifted the lid on his time at Middlesbrough

Gareth Southgate's journey into management was far from a conventional one.

The former Boro defender is getting set to lead England into a World Cup campaign after a rapid rise up the managerial ladder.

Southgate when in charge of Middlesbrough - his first managerial job

Southgate when in charge of Middlesbrough - his first managerial job

And Southgate has now opened up about the 'fast track of learning' that saw him thrust into the hotseat at Middlesbrough after the departure of Steve McClaren in 2006.

It was a shock to Southgate who, while hoping to get further coaching experience, didn't expect to be handed the managerial reigns so quickly.

Speaking to The Coaches Voice, Southgate said: "It came out of the blue.

"I was on holiday with my family, trying to shake off the end of the previous season before I started to think about the next one, when I got a phone call from the Middlesbrough chairman.

"Would I consider taking on the role of manager?

"Maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised. I’d already made a start on my coaching qualifications. And when Steve McClaren had moved on to take the England job, I’d spoken to the chairman about the possibility of learning from whoever was coming in to the club as manager next.

"Maybe I could be part of their team, or even just sit in on some of their meetings. It was something I was keen to do alongside playing.

"I still had another year left on my playing contract at Middlesbrough. And given I’d played around 30 games the previous season, there was no real reason to think I wouldn’t see that through.

"Except, of course, for this one."

Such an offer gave Southgate a decision to make - but having recognised the opportunity, it was an easy one.

That said, the ease of making the decision didn't make the transition from playing into management any less stressful.

And the former centre back knew he had to learn quickly, a process which was helped by working alongside some experienced coaches.

"I knew it was a brilliant opportunity, and one that might not come my way again, but it was a stressful one," he admitted.

"All of a sudden, I was on a fast track of learning. Every meeting I was in and every experience was brand new to me. Nothing I’d done up to that point in my life had really prepared me for any of it.

"I couldn’t hide from that. I think everybody knew I wasn’t completely ready, but I was fortunate to have some good, experienced coaches around me that really helped enormously – people like Steve Harrison and Malcolm Crosby. Without their support initially, it would have been really difficult."

While those around him were experienced, Southgate was not, and felt that his every decision was being scrutinised and challenged.

That left him questioning himself and the former England international believes there are far better routes into management than his - despite his final destination.

"One of the hardest things as a new coach is that you don’t have any evidence of what work," he added.

"You have an idea in your mind of how you think things should be run, but you don’t actually have evidence of the results until you’ve lived through it.

"You’re constantly being challenged by everybody. Your every decision is questioned. Alongside all of that, you have questions in your own mind.

"Should we be training like this? Should we be training as intensely? Should we be signing this player?

"Until you can build up those experiences, it’s very difficult as a manager to be convincing to everybody else. That’s why it’s a much better pathway to work with young players first, so that you get an understanding of how people learn, how you need to coach, how you want to play and what that looks like on the training pitch.

"That’s all before you start adding things in like recruiting players, operating in the transfer market, how to deal with the media and with running a club.

"Sometimes I ask myself, was it a good decision to take it on? There’s certainly better pathways than the one I took, that’s for sure."