EXCLUSIVE: Former under-23s boss Paul Stephenson opens up on Middlesbrough departure and his relationship with Jonathan Woodgate

Former under-23s boss Paul Stephenson is disappointed he won’t get the chance to work with Jonathan Woodgate as part of Middlesbrough’s new coaching set-up.

By Joe Nicholson
Wednesday, 26 June, 2019, 19:03
Middlesbrough parted company with under-23s lead coach Paul Stephenson last month.

Stephenson, who joined Boro in the summer of 2017, was left in shock after the club parted company with him at the end of May.

But Stephenson has no hard feelings about the decision to let him go, and praised Boro’s academy set-up which has allowed the likes of Lewis Wing and Marcus Tavernier to break into the first team.

“We had a great group of lads there who made some great progress in the time I was there, you look at the likes of Wingy and Marcus it shows the good work we were doing.”

Since Stephenson’s departure, Boro have promoted Graeme Lee from assistant to lead coach of the under-23s side.

When asked the reasoning Boro gave behind the decision, Stephenson added: “I think they just wanted to take a different direction, that’s football and I understand that.”

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Less than a month after Stephenson’s departure, Boro appointed Woodgate as their new head coach on a three-year deal.

Woodgate worked as Boro’s first-team coach under Tony Pulis last season, and Stephenson has backed the former defender to succeed in the Riverside hotseat.

“I had a fantastic relationship with Jonathan,” added Stephenson. “He was very supportive and delighted with the players’ progress. He loved coming to watch the under-23s play and the tempo and style we played.

“He was my link to the first team and I would have loved to continue that relationship.

“I think he has earned his chance with diligent, hard work over the past few seasons. He is very hard working and has a real love for the game which I think will shine through.

“He must be given time to implement his ideas and philosophy now, especially if he’s adding young players to his squad. I wish him and Boro all the best in the future.”