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Jonathan Woodgate admits attitudes towards mental health have changed markedly since he was a player. However, he says even his experiences in the game failed to prepare him for the social media abuse that came his way as a manager. Woodgate rose to prominence in a Leeds side that qualified for the Champions League in 1999/00, played in the UEFA Cup semi-final in 2000 and reached the Champions League semi-final the next season.
"When I was playing, if I was a 19-year-old kid and went to see the manager to say I'm really struggling mentally, I think he'd just look at me and think I was soft," he said. "I didn't hear mental health spoken about until three years ago. With players it was you were either feeling sad or happy, but now it's big. "I always say to my players, my door is always open. Anything you need or want from me as a manager - come and see me. Whether it's football related or personal and home life stuff, come and see me, I've got experience in different things and you can talk to me, I'm not going to judge but always try and help you."
But despite his enlightened approach to player welfare, it was Woodgate who was in need of an arm around the shoulder following his dismissal as Middlesbrough manager in 2020, a role he described as his "dream job". Boro were only outside the Championship relegation zone on goal difference when Woodgate was dismissed and he admits the criticism which accompanied his sacking was hard to deal with. "I got a lot of abuse from the fans. I'm not intellectually clever, quite basic, and I get called a hell of a lot of names - he's thick, he can't talk properly. I lost a bit of confidence to be honest with you just as a person. What's helped has been doing a lot of radio work for 5Live, and started to get a bit of confidence back. "It was tough. If you get a lot of abuse online - if you shoot so much mud, some of it sticks."
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However, it wasn't just the effects on his fledgling coaching career which occupied his mind but how his family would take the news, especially his son, Carter. "Telling my kids was the hardest thing, because my son just burst out crying because he is a Boro fan. That was really, really tough. "I was embarrassed as well. Embarrassed that I'd lost my job so early on in my management career. If your first job doesn't go to plan, it's highly unlikely that you're going to get a second one. Luckily enough I did [at Bournemouth], but it's that feeling of not being able to do the job that you know you could have done. "Looking at all the players I was gonna sign, trying to build for next season with seven players out of contract, the chairman said he was gonna back me in the summer. I was absolutely gutted. It was a drive home and I can't remember getting home. I cannot remember getting home. I was on autopilot thinking 'what has happened here'. "It was a blessing in disguise that it was Covid at the time and my son wasn't at school. I'd have been terrified of him going to school at the time and getting bullied or whatever, your dad's this, your dad's that, because all the kids are Boro fans and kids can be quite cruel so quite fortunately he was off school at the time."
Woodgate was speaking on the Original Penguin X Campaign Against Living Miserably Under The Surface podcast
The article Woodgate admits ‘thick’ jibes left him struggling for confidence following Middlesbrough sacking appeared first on Planetsport.com.