Monk ready for Swansea reunion
Garry Monk is used to facing his old clubs. After all, it’s been less than a week since his Birmingham side was defeated by his former employers Middlesbrough.
Meeting Swansea on Friday night, however, will be a different kettle of fish altogether. Monk spent 10 years as a player in South Wales, while the club also handed him his first shot at management.
Joining them right at the bottom of the Football League pyramid in 2004, the culmination of Monk’s playing career would come seven years later as he captained the side to victory in the Championship play-off final.
“I was at Southampton but I was in and out of the first team and I just wanted to play football,” remembered Monk. “I had some reservations because it was League Two at the time and I’d been out on loan in other leagues and felt I was capable of playing at a higher level. But the bottom line is I wanted to play.
“I don’t think anyone could envisage what actually happened after that. We got the feeling we were moving forward and then we got that first promotion. The rest, as they say, is history.”
More surprises were to come. When Michael Laudrup was sacked in early 2014, chairman Huw Jenkins turned to the injured former captain to try and steer the club to safety.
It could barely have been a more perfect start as they thumped rivals Cardiff 3-0 in his first game in charge, while four wins in their last seven games saw Swansea seal Premier League survival.
The campaign that followed Monk’s permanent appointment was even better as Swansea came eighth, their highest final position in the Premier League and best top-flight finish since 1982.
“I was obviously still playing and had a year left on my contract so it was a big shock,” he said. “I was injured at the time but it was my testimonial year and that’s what I was thinking about, before maybe moving on to play a couple of years somewhere else.
“You have to give credit to Huw Jenkins. It was a brave decision and I don’t think that will happen again at Premier League level. He had big trust in me and I’ll always be grateful for that. I didn’t feel then that I was manager of the club I was just thinking about the 13 games. But then that went well, we managed to get safe and I got a taste for it.”
The strain soon told, though, and after a poor start to the 2015/16 campaign Monk was dismissed and his 12-year stay at the club came to an end.
“It will always be my most difficult job because I felt such a huge responsibility to the club,” he said. “I felt very drained at times because I knew the fans, players and owners and I felt the weight of every decision. It was a lot of pressure but you’re in the frying pan and I loved it.”
2:06 Middlesbrough 1-0 Birmingham
Monk’s next job at Leeds was something of a success as he took the club to seventh in the Championship in 2016/17, although it must be added that a late-season collapse saw them miss out on what seemed a certain spot in the play-offs, before he moved on to Middlesbrough, where things struggled to gel before he was sacked last December.
Now at Birmingham where, much like at Swansea, Monk found himself trying to keep a club safe towards the back end of a campaign. That was achieved on the final day of last season but any hopes of a record-breaking follow-up were tempered over the summer by a transfer embargo. For Monk, though, it’s just another hurdle to overcome.
“I’ve gained a lot of experience in a short period of time,” he said. “Through all of [my jobs] I’ve tried to make the best of it and it’s about keeping the players away from it and trying to help the club get back on course.
“It’s about doing our best with the restrictions we have and you have to get on with it. We have to be realistic but that doesn’t mean we can’t want it more or fight more for it.”
Birm’ham vs Swansea
August 17, 2018, 7:00pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
It’s been less than three years since Monk left Swansea but the club are onto their fifth permanent manager since his departure. Under Graham Potter the Swans have won their opening two games so far and will be a tough proposition at St Andrew’s.
Birmingham, meanwhile, have just a point and Monk knows he needs a victory, meaning there will be no sentiment in play on Friday night.
“My attachment to the club will always be there and it will always be in my heart,” he said. “I have nothing but good feelings towards the club even though the ending wasn’t what I wanted. But over 90 minutes I don’t care who we play, I want my team to win.”