Garry Monk – The Right Man For The Job?

After a significant period of time searching, Sheffield Wednesday have found their man. His name? Danny Cowl…Garry Monk? Relatively out of the blue, Wednesday have opted to select the 40-year old English manager to be at the helm as we try and claw our way out of the league. Here’s my view on the appointment as well as those of fans of his previous clubs…

I won’t lie to you, initially, I was a little disappointed. Whilst not quite on that merry go round of ageing, hoof-ball playing managers – he’s not the most inspiring, left-field of decisions. Yet as I delved deeper into the actual statistics of his previous tenures, the picture got a lot brighter. Here is a brief overview of all of Monk’s previous jobs.

Monk has previously managed at four clubs – all of a decent size. Those four consist of Swansea City, Leeds United, Middlesborough and Birmingham City. He has an average win percentage of 39.1%, a very respectable number (especially when you factor in that part of this is whilst managing in the top flight). He was in charge when Swansea finished 8th in the Premier League – including their club-record points tally. He led Leeds to be 11 points clear of 7th in mid-march before a typical Leeds capitulation ensued. Middlesborough were in 9th place and 3 points off the play-offs when they got rid of Monk – many would feel that was hardly a sackable situation. And most recently, Monk was at Birmingham City. With a squad that was struggling and owners many Birmingham City fans hate, Monk did a more than respectable job. Having joined in early March, he led them to safety – winning five out of the remaining eleven matches. Then, last-season, Birmingham City were within an outside chance of play-offs until a 9 point deduction meant a 17th place finish.

After reading the stats it’s all of a sudden hard to complain. It is without a shadow of a doubt a better appointment than Pulis (who was rumoured to strongly want the job) or those alike. And I feel that this feeling has been reciprocated among the fanbase. Whilst, of course, there was your standard ‘moaner’, many fans seem to be fully behind Monk – a surprisingly pleasant occurrence. To say we could have done much worse is a huge understatement. Whilst many dreamt of the fairytale of having the Cowley brother’s, in reality, it could well have turned out like Nathan Jones at Stoke City or Paul Hurst at Ipswich Town – a failure. In Monk, we have a man with experience when it comes to this league. He is the same age as Danny Cowley, a man constantly labelled with the ‘young, English managerial talent’ tag. Surely, this must apply to Monk aswell? Monk will bring a calm, assuring presence to what has been a turbulent few years for Wednesday. And although there is off the pitch issues with Monk regarding agents, let’s hope Chansiri is wise enough to make sure that there isn’t anything dodgy – which I’m sure he has done. My only slight concern is the fact that it looks like Pep Clotet won’t be accompanying him. Monk has had the most success at clubs when his trusty right-hand man has been alongside him. I just hope that Lee Bullen can fill in that assistant role (like he has done since 2015) and have a similar relationship with Monk as Clotet looks to have had.

Alas, rather than making predictions, when it comes to hearing what Monk is truly like as a manager, who better to ask than fans of his previous clubs? I spoke to fans from all of Monk’s old clubs to get a feeling of what he might bring to S6…

On behalf of Swansea fans, I spoke to Adam from ‘The Swansea Beat Football Page’. On behalf of Leeds United fans, I spoke to Leeds fan Jack, who has previously helped me on Wednesday vs LUFC previews. On behalf of Boro fans, I spoke to Ian Smith who writes for both Boro fanzine ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ and his own blog smithytheborofan.wordpress.com. Finally, on behalf of Birmingham City fan’s, I spoke to Emily from ‘Birmingham Fan TV’.

How would you rate Garry Monk’s managerial spell at your club?

SWANS – In my opinion, he was a mixed bag depending on how you look at it. Former Swans manager Michael Laudrup was sacked and Monk was brought in as interim player-manager and, in his first game we won 3-0 against Cardiff City. That season we survived and Monk was made the permanent manager for the following season. The next season we reached a record tally of 56 points in the Premier League. His downfall was that the fans noticed that he started to change our style and game plan in games which we should have played attractive football but instead we played anti-football. This helped cause players and fans to lose faith in him and he was sacked in December 2015 with 1 win in 11 Premier League matches.

LUFC – There was a lot of dismay at Leeds before Monk took over. We had slumped to a 13th place finish, which was only so high because of a surprising Steve Evans influence halfway through the season. Monk came in with some actual direction as to where he wanted to go and he made some good signings including Pablo Hernandez who is still our best player by far. He guided us to a 7th place finish which was our joint highest since promotion but the drop in form at the end of the season came down to him reportedly losing the dressing room. Overall I think he did a sound enough job and was certainly better than anyone else that had been at the helm for us in this league.

BORO – It’s difficult to rate it anything other than disappointing. The expectation levels when he arrived were massive, not just on him in all fairness, but on the club as a whole given that we’d just come down from the Premier League. He spent a fair bit of money (more than he perhaps needed). The problem appeared to be that he didn’t have a clue what his best line up was, or indeed formation. He chopped and changed, isolating particular players (Downing to begin with, Traore was in and out too). Big money signings such as Ashley Fletcher & Martin Braithwaite failed to impress or were inconsistent. The rate of change in formations meant basic mistakes were being made, leading to goals being leaked more often than the Boro faithful had been used to prior, especially at Championship level. There was a general consensus that he was missing his trusted lieutenant in Pep Clotet (his former assistant at Leeds, now in charge of Oxford at this point). And there’s a fair bit of mileage in that theory given how well they did when reunited at Birmingham. His departure was a slight surprise, and the circumstances are still a little vague to this day. Yes, we were inconsistent, and some way off the rather unfortunate demands set by chairman Steve Gibson (his now-infamous “smash the league” comment won’t have helped fan expectations, and therefore the resulting discontent when our league position didn’t match up to those expectations). However, there’s a sense that it wasn’t just performances that brought his stay to a premature end. Whatever it was, his stay was short, barely sweet and on reflection rather hollow. His modern-day management speak, and predictable press conferences left fans feeling disengaged. It was just a job to him, or that’s how it felt.

BIRMINGHAM – I would rate Garry Monk 7.5/10 at Blues. This is because he was arguably our best manager since Chris Hughton and he stabilised the club in the back end of the 2017/18 season, brought unity to the squad and we played with determined, resolute attitude on the pitch. The football wasn’t passing, flowing football but certainly wasn’t terrible to watch, with glimpses of attacking ruthlessness.

(Garry Monk posing ahead of his unveiling. Photo – swfc.co.uk)

What style of play can Wednesday expect from Monk?

SWANS – With a team like yours it could be successful if Monk doesn’t park the bus or play defensively all the time. His best formation is either 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1.

LUFC – Monk likes an attacking, possession style of play that he took from his time at Swansea when they were one of the best for it when he was a player. He likes players to just play their natural game, which is how he got the best out of the likes of Bony, Sigurdsson and more recently Chris Wood and Lukas Jutkiewicz. It’s interesting however that for the first time, James Beattie won’t be joining him, maybe because he is an ex blade? It’s hard to ignore that he must have had a big influence on those strikers also! Monk has always favoured a 4-3-3 and is happy to play a counter-attacking style to adapt to whoever his side playing. This was evident in his season at Swansea where he guided them to 8th.

BORO – In terms of style of play, he likes to play ‘the right way’, and evidence of that was seen in his short time with us. After a few years of rigidity and the mentality that the odd goal will do, it was a welcome change in some respects to see more attack-minded football. However, as I alluded to earlier, he chopped and changed a fair bit with us, significantly impacting on the consistency of team performance. One thing I did take from his time on Teesside was his willingness to play full-backs who love to bomb forward. Cyrus Christie was brought in, and along with Fabio, we had wing-backs pretty much, who were full of running.

BIRMINGHAM – The style of football Wednesday can expect is more than likely going to be counter-attacking football with Monk usually lining up with a 4-4-2 formation, with the two wingers and two strikers being the main attacking outlets. The midfield two and back four will make a solid, compact six. Overall, while not pretty, it can be incredibly effective as long as you have the quality in attacking positions.

Could you explain to Wednesday fans in as clear a sense as possible, what this whole agent fiasco regarding Monk is about?

BORO – Well, as far as I can gather, the agent in question, James Featherstone, is a personal friend of Monk. During his time at Boro, it’s become apparent that Featherstone was involved in at least one deal, and attempted to join in one or two others. The accusations include Boro apparently overpaying Derby when signing Cyrus Christie, to the tune of £500k. The agent himself was paid £100k for representing the selling club. He is also alleged to have attempted to join in the Martin Braithwaite deal but was told by the club his services weren’t required. Same applied to the Ashley Fletcher deal as he’d been in touch with the player’s father, only for the club to step in once more and warn him off making contact again. The Fletcher deal was made that little more interesting due to the fact Leeds were apparently quoted half the £7m fee Boro paid when they made enquiries during Monk’s time at Elland Road. With Monk seemingly knowing this having been party to the dealings between Leeds and West Ham, the question is why there was such a hike in price when Boro came calling? The attempted gatecrashing of the deal by Featherstone just adds fuel to any fire really. Since the summer, when Boro were reported to be taking legal action, Leeds have since come out and expressed concerns, as have, of course, Birmingham when they announced Monk’s departure.

Do you think Monk is a good appointment for Wednesday?

Swans – Truthfully, it’s a good appointment and he will probably succeed for Wednesday if tactics are spot on.

LUFC – If you’re after an English manager, who else really is there available that is better? Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t exactly always worked out for Monk in this division. He gets frustrated if he isn’t backed financially but the bottom line for Wednesday fans is that you will get a sense of tactical direction back.

BORO – In spite of our experience of him, I genuinely think it’s a good move by the Wednesday owners. He’ll look to play that attack-minded football I alluded to, although I’m assuming Clotet won’t be following him so it remains to be seen again if that has any kind of effect. On the whole, you’d have to say he’s had a relatively good management career so far.

BIRMINGHAM – Given the group of managers that are currently available, I would say yes. If you cannot get Hughton himself, Monk is arguably the second-best choice after that. He is a character that you certainly can warm to and always demands 100% from his players.

So, that’s what some non-Owls make on the appointment. What do you think? Be sure to tweet me – @OpinionOfAnOwl. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s