'I always knew he was going to be a manager.': Ex-Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Aston Villa man highlights Gareth Southgate's leadership qualities
Former England winger Stewart Downing says he always knew Gareth Southgate would be a manager during their time together at Middlesbrough.
Southgate was Boro captain when Downing broke into the first team at Boro and later became the club’s manager in 2006.
The Teessiders struggled during that period and were relegated from the Premier League, yet Downing, who also played for Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham, says Southgate’s leadership skills were obvious.
Ahead of England’s Euro 2020 match against Czech Republic, Downing spoke to Sky Sports News and was asked what Southgate was like before big matches.
"Very good,” the winger replied. “He was like a manager when he played really.
“He was very good with the players one-on-one, always speaking to them.
“He wasn’t really a shouter, he was more arm round the players. He was a very good communicator. He was a fantastic captain, one of the best I’ve played with.
“He will be motivating the players and the players will listen to him.
“I enjoyed playing with him and I always knew he was going to be a manager.”
Southgate has come under scrutiny in recent weeks while making big selection calls, yet Downing says the England boss will remain calm.
“He’s a calm character, I think you see that when he addresses the media,” Downing added.
“He was like that as a player, nothing really fazes him and he speaks very well.
“He was very calm and he will put that over to the players, ignore the noise and concentrate on the game which is his job to do.
“They are in safe hands with him in terms of that.”