Former Blackburn Rovers winger Stewart Downing has opened up about his coaching ambitions after starting his badges at Ewood Park.
Downing left Rovers at the end of his contract last summer and retired from the game altogether. After a stellar career, the 37-year-old now has ambitions to prove himself in the dugout.
Downing earned his A license at Rovers and was involved in Under-23 coaching when he was unavailable or unselected by Tony Mowbray. There his passion for developing young players grew and 12 months later he is clear on the path he would like to take.
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“In the 20 years I’ve played, with a nine-year international career there, I’ve been exposed to some amazing managers and very different styles of play along the way,” Downing told Coaches’ Voice. “The variety of coaches I met inspired me to become a coach myself.
!Towards the end of my career, I started to pay more attention to the tactical aspect of the game. At the end of my time at Middlesbrough, I started my B license.
“I was 34 and I knew that was the direction I wanted to go. Tony Pulis told me to start early.
“Then when I went to Blackburn I started my A license. When I wasn’t playing I took the under-23s.
“I loved doing my badges and I was able to go to many clubs to see the different ways coaches approach the game – both in how they coach and how they want the game to be played. Since that I retired in 2021, I went to Middlesbrough academy to coach, mainly working with Under-14s through to Under-16s.
“They need a little more help than the older players I’ve worked with, and you do a little more one-on-one coaching with them, which I like to do.
With the Blackburn Under-23 it was more about winning.
“Young players you are looking to develop but at this stage we wanted to make sure we were winning games. I also learned how to do team talks which I totally took for granted as a player .
“I used to look at my managers and think what they were doing looked easy. You just stand in front of everyone and talk.
“When you do it yourself, though, it’s a different ballgame. It doesn’t matter if it’s in front of four or 40 people.
“The players listen to every word you say; if you mess up, he’ll come back and bite you. That’s the kind of thing I loved learning to do, though.
“I like that side of things now, and I’m more and more confident in my ability to get my ideas across. I don’t have any immediate plans for where my coaching will take me, but I’m pretty open with where I want to get to someday I want to be a manager.
“It was great to go back to Middlesbrough to learn my craft, make my mistakes with the younger age groups and watch other coaches. Going to other clubs to see great coaches like Sean Dyche, Tony Mowbray and Steven Gerrard in action helped shape my philosophy. It’s amazing how different managers can be.
“I think now, having had the playing career that I’ve had, taking elements from so many great coaches and having had the chance to step back and reflect on my career and think about the coach I want to be, I’m in a good place.
“At the end of the day, I want the chance to complete a set that would mean a lot to me.”