As a player he learnt from the likes of Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez but now Steven Watt believes his greatest education is happening in his first managerial role with Margate.
It is seven weeks since Watt left Hastings United and accepted his first job in management with the Gate, replacing Nikki Bull in the Hartsdown Park dugout.
At the time Margate were sat bottom of the Vanarama National League South, with just sixteen points from their twenty nine games.
Progress has been made, realistic goals set by the new manager have been achieved.
In his third game in charge the Gate kept their first clean sheet since September in a 0-0 draw at Concord Rangers.
One week later, a real landmark was hit with a 2-0 home win over Gosport Borough. Last weekend they secured another home win, this time over Truro City.
Watt’s record stands at eight games played, two wins, two draws and four defeats.
A modest record some will argue but a clear sign of progression.
A look at the eight games prior to his appointment show eight defeats, with the Gate failing to score in seven of those fixtures.
That improvement was enough to convince the board that Watt and assistant manager Steve Brown were worthy of new deals keeping them at the club for the 2017/18 season.
And as he reflects on the opening weeks of what he hopes will be a long managerial career, Watt believes he is in the right place to begin his managerial education.
He said “It was a great opportunity and one that I couldn’t turn down.
“When I came here with other clubs I always thought it was a sleeping giant. I knew the situation that the club was in, things weren’t great on or off the park.
“It would be easy to start my career as a manager at a club where everything was in place for you but you can’t learn in that environment.
“I have learnt quickly and no, it hasn’t been easy, but I have enjoyed it.
“We have steadied the ship, and that has allowed me to put things in place on the pitch.
“I inherited a squad that wasn’t mine so I had to make quick decisions, probably quicker than I would have liked.
“It’s a big learning curve and I have had to learn on my feet.
“It’s a great challenge and the summer will bring even bigger challenges, no matter what division we are in.”
What division they are in is still to be decided, mathematically anyway.
Despite their improvement the Gate sit twelve points from safety with just five games remaining.
Two of those remaining games are home fixtures against the league’s top two clubs; Maidenhead United and Ebbsfleet United.
Relegation could be confirmed as soon as this weekend, when Watt’s side travel to St Albans City.
But the former Chelsea, Swansea City and Ross County defender is adamant that his side have to believe that an escape from a seemingly inevitable relegation is possible.
“We have to believe” insisted Watt.
“Until it is mathematically impossible to survive, we have to keep pushing.
“We are in good form and you never say never in football, which is one thing I have learnt in my time in the game.
“I don’t look at the table; I don’t look beyond the next fixture.
“We are hitting the little goals I set. We have gained a first point, we have kept a first clean sheet, we have won a first game and we have had a little unbeaten run.
“We got off the bottom of the table, probably quicker than I expected.
“It it little steps but we will keep going until the end of the season.”
Watt’s analytical approach is hardly a surprise when you take into consideration the calibre of the managers he played under during a playing career that saw him represent eleven clubs and gain five Scotland Under-21 caps.
In the formative years of his career he played for the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Steve Clarke in Chelsea’s youth team.
His form caught the attention of the Blues first team manager Jose Mourinho.
The two-time Champions League winning manager handed Watt his full debut in an FA Cup Third Round tie against Scunthorpe United in January 2005.
The Scot lined up alongside the likes of Joe Cole, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Didier Drogba, as the Blues saw off the Iron with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
Even at a young age, during the preparations for the game, Watt learnt a big lesson in man-management from Mourinho.
“Jose’s man-management was exceptional, probably his biggest strength.
“He knew how to deal with players, how to get the best out of them.
“The Thursday before the Scunthorpe game he told me I would be making my first team debut.
“But there was no sit down meeting, I wasn’t called into his office, there was no big deal made.
“I was in the canteen at the training ground, waiting in the queue to get my lunch and he walked up, tapped me on the shoulder and asked what I was doing at the weekend.
“He then asked me if I wanted to play for him in the first team. You look back and laugh but I think that was his way of saying it isn’t a big deal for him and he wasn’t worried about putting me in.
“That helped me relax, it gave me confidence and it was a big lesson.”
Watt made one Premier League appearance for the Blues, as a late substitute for Jiri Jarosik against Newcastle United on the last day of Mourinho’s first season in charge.
He was in and around the first team squad that season and saw the impact that the current Manchester United manager had on the Blues squad.
Mourinho led Chelsea to a Carling Cup Final win over Liverpool and won their first top-flight title for half a century.
That spell left an impression on Watt that lives to this day.
“He was top class and he just changed everything.
“His organisation, how thorough he was in his preparations, the training was perfect.
“He sent you out on a pitch knowing everything about the opposition. Each player’s height, their weight, their weaknesses and everything about the way the opposition set-up.
“I was fortunate enough to play under him and the likes of Brendan Rodgers, Walter Smith and Robert Martinez.
“They have achieved great things in the game.
“Derek Adams was excellent too in my time at Ross County.
“You take little pieces from each manager and I had good relationships with each of them.”
Rather than looking to the past, Watt is now looking forward and is clear in his ambitions for Margate.
“I think we can be National League, I think if we can get things going we will have the fanbase.
“Things need to be run properly, we need stability.
“The club had an influx of money, but then it was taken away and you can’t run a successful club when things like that happen.
“We need stability, we need sustainability and we need to to achieve longevitity with our success.
“If we can do that we can be stable and successful but that won’t happen overnight.
“There is plenty of hard work to come and we are only just at the start of that”
Steve Watt’s managerial education is now fully underway and Margate will hope that the lessons of the past will help them move forward during his time at the club.
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Margate FC, Reuters Media