I’d moved to India to experience something new – something I did when I moved to LA, and something I always encourage young players to do – as a player under Teddy Sheringham, who I had played with at the start of my time at Spurs.
Unfortunately, Teddy got sacked, and so did his replacement, a guy called Ashley Westwood. All of a sudden, I was appointed player-manager.
I had a real challenge in the first week, when the vice-captain was persistently late to gym sessions. So, I made an example of him to set the standard for the rest of the players. I had no difficulty doing that, because doing anything else would have sent the wrong message to the rest of the squad.
I was player-manager for six or seven weeks, and really enjoyed it. I got some really valuable experience as a manager – my first game was against Avram Grant, who had managed me at West Ham, and I ended up scoring the winner!
“On one side, I had Mick’s experience and the international set-up; on the other, I was learning the ropes alongside Woody in the Championship”
It gave me a different perspective on the game and the demands were significant, but I needed to experience that. I was offered the manager’s job for longer, but I knew I wanted to learn as a coach more.
I didn’t want to dive into my first job as a number one. I’m looking at this part of my career with a long-term view. I made sure I had my Pro Licence and then looked at jobs.
Then Mick McCarthy (below) gave me a call. He’d given me my chance as a player with the national side back in 1998 and here he was, Ireland manager once again, giving me my chance as a coach in November 2018.
I learned so much from him. It was such a great experience to just be able to watch him work: training, press conferences, how he interacted with players.