But it was only at the age of 30 that I really started thinking a bit like a coach.
Gianluca Vialli had been named player-manager at Chelsea. Vialli had been my neighbour in the dressing room and, obviously, the players talk a lot about the manager.
Then, from one day to the next, he was the coach.
“Could that happen to me? Could I get the call one day?”
Then I started to really pay attention, to take notes. I hadn’t done so until then.
When Gianluca did something very good, I would write it down. When he did something I didn’t like at all, I also wrote it down. I tried to think about all the reasoning behind each training session.
I did the same with Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham and, whether you want to or not, you start defining yourself as a manager.
“The idea was to keep getting better, and to keep getting better meant getting into the Premier League”
When the time eventually came for me to be a manager, I knew it would be very difficult to start off in the Premier League.
In 2009, the job at Brighton came up, which was an incredible opportunity. The team was fighting to avoid relegation from League One, and I went for it.
I found a group of players that wanted to learn. Little by little, we kept growing in an extraordinary way.
After my time as a Chelsea player (above), I had fallen in love with the 4-4-2 system. That system was very clear to me, and I knew how to coach it because it fitted my idea of the game. That’s the way we started at Brighton, and we had some great times – but, incredibly, something changed in a match away to Leeds.
We had lost 3-0 at home, and I decided to play in more of a 4-3-3 shape at Elland Road. Sometimes in a 4-3-3, the two outside forwards play more like midfielders, so you could call it a 4-5-1. But not in this case – they played as proper forwards, and the team played an amazing match.