In the early days, managers were just people who I respected and tried to listen to. I like to think I always got their respect back too, because of how hard I worked and how seriously I took the profession. But I never really had what I’d call a ‘relationship’ with them.
If I performed well for a manager, then they’d want to give me a contract extension or sign me at another club. If I didn’t, then they probably wouldn’t, and there would be very little relationship going forward.
As you get older, that changes a little. Mark Hughes had been a teammate of mine for two years at Blackburn before he became my manager there. Our relationship obviously changed when that happened – we weren’t going down to the pub together any more – but it was still very good, and we could have an easy conversation about things.
Martin O’Neill signed me for Aston Villa, and he was someone I got along well with. He’s very much like myself in that you can have a fight and a bust-up, but you can also shake hands afterwards and get on with it.
When Gerard Houllier took over from him, I wasn’t sure how that would go – we hadn’t exactly had an outstanding relationship when he was my manager at Liverpool. But at Villa, we actually had a very good one. If I’m being honest, that was probably about me growing up a little.
“I’d say the role of a manager is now 75 to 80 per cent mental as opposed to the day-to-day training”
By the time I moved to Tottenham, I was starting to think about getting into coaching and I was in the perfect spot to begin my journey. The head of the club’s academy, John McDermott, opened the doors to me so I could help out – and, during my four years as a Tottenham player, I had four completely different managers to learn from.
Harry Redknapp was a veteran of the game, set in his ways and knew exactly how he wanted to run things. Then there was Andre Villas-Boas (below) – a younger manager who’d been at clubs that had a lot of the new money in the game. Tim Sherwood, who was brought up from the academy, followed him. And, finally, there was Mauricio Pochettino.
Four entirely different viewpoints on the game. I took a lot of notes.
There was one common denominator in all the advice I received on going into management: be yourself. If you get upset in a situation, then be that. If you’re happy, you can be that, too.
The most important thing is that you don’t lie to players and that you have a staff that knows how to play off your emotions, so you don’t have an entire staff that’s angry or happy at the same time.
I like to think I’ve taken that advice.