Southgate worried by game's lack of leaders

Middlesbrough manager believes changes in society make the club's job harder
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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, is concerned that modern society is not breeding the leaders that football clubs crave.

Southgate led by example throughout his career, captaining Aston Villa and Boro and proving a stalwart for England. He now presides over the Teessiders' famed academy, which has produced a series of first-team players in recent years and seen two of them, Stewart Downing and David Wheater, figure in Fabio Capello's senior international squad.

However, Southgate fears that changes in childhood lifestyles are denying young players the chance to develop their leadership skills, and responsibility is now falling upon the clubs. He said: "There aren't many leaders in football these days. We don't breed many leaders in society so we have to try to develop people while they are with us.

"Society is different, generally. The way that kids play – they don't play out in the streets together, a lot of their time is spent in front of computers or on personal stereos or personal dvd players, so there is less communication between people generally.

"There is a lot more communication via the internet and things like that, so there is just a general change in the education of children. Society is changing, that is just a fact of the modern world. You have to develop the skills. There are some things that are brought in from your upbringing within your family and school, but you have to then continue that process and you have to develop the skills of communication and of leadership."

Southgate handed 24-year-old Downing the captain's armband for last Saturday's Premier League match against West Bromwich Albion with his regular captain, Emanuel Pogatetz, suspended. The winger is one of the major successes of Boro's academy having broken into the first team as a teenager, but his manager admits even he could take on greater responsibility.

He said: "He is our longest-serving outfield player, and I think the responsibility is good for him in terms of growing as a person as well. We have got some leaders in the group, but we need more people to come forward as leaders, and he sometimes doesn't realise the impact he can have on the team. It's good experience for him."

Southgate, of course, had his own style of leadership, and that is something he has taken into management.

A measured and quietly spoken man, he brought a calmness to the role of captaincy where others took a more robust approach. However, he admits even he had to hone his natural skills as he made his way in the game.

He said: "I always captained teams when I was younger and when I was a junior with Crystal Palace. By the same token, I was quiet, like most young players when they go into the first team. But my coaches and managers encouraged me to develop those skills

"You look at the successful teams, whether it is the England rugby team or the cricket team that won the Ashes a couple of years ago, and you tend to have five or six people within that group who could have captained it. That plays a huge role."

Boro face Wigan at the JJB Stadium on Saturday, and Southgate has injury concerns over the defenders Andrew Taylor and Robert Huth – he has recalled Jonathan Grounds from a loan spell at Norwich as a result – while the midfielder Gary O'Neil is ill.

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