With football headlines in this country often hogged by Mourinho’s antics and Van Gaal’s latest one-liner, the casual football fan can probably be forgiven for not paying so much attention to the managers who get on with their business with not quite as much fuss. What cannot be excused and must be addressed, however, is the chronic under-appreciation of one of the English game’s most remarkable managers in Swansea boss Garry Monk. The young manager was tasked with filling the shoes of the outgoing Michael Laudrup in February 2014 but was not overwhelmed by the prospect – securing safety for the club with a game to spare. In his first full season at the club where his playing career came to an end, Monk led the side to its second ever highest league finish with a hugely impressive haul of 56 points, eliciting a stylish brand of football from his squad in the process. All this from a guy who boasted no previous managerial experience and was thought to be an unhappy ending in the making by most pundits. Where are the plaudits hiding now? Sure, Monk occasionally receives the passing compliment from time to time, but his efforts warrant much louder appreciation and there is no better time than now.
The common formula for appointing the manager of the season usually boils down to going with whoever won the league – a method that is not without its potential flaws. This is not to say managers further down the table are excluded from debate. In fact it has become fashionable to put an arm around the likes of Sean Dyche and Ian Holloway and re-assure them that it’s the taking part that counts. Indeed, many were suggesting Dyche would be a nailed-on PFA winner had Burnley managed to survive the drop. So how can the understatement of Garry Monk’s success be explained? “Perhaps he hasn’t been that successful” I suspect some of you may suggest. Monk may not have secured Champions League football for his side or got his hands on silverware, but when one places his short reign into context, his achievements so far are nothing short of staggering.
It is said that turning a naïve, newly-promoted team into a stable and sustainable Premier League side is one of the most difficult feats in the English game. Apparently nobody told Garry Monk this. Supposedly only managers of experience are capable of executing such a stunt. Monk clearly wasn’t passed on this information either. The paradoxical relationship between his inexperience and the solidification of Swansea’s top flight status is one of the most remarkable stories in the modern game. The Bedford-born 36 year old didn’t waste time moping over a career cut short – instead he gained his badges and jumped straight into the deep end with no fear or hesitation. It is no wonder Monk has been so successful in earning the respect of his dressing room – gutsiness and conviction are qualities of universal appeal.
Then we have the performance of Monk in the market. Latest big-money coup André Ayew reportedly turned down approaches from Roma and Atletico Madrid to take on the challenge offered to him at the Liberty Stadium in an unprecedented tribute to the new allure of the club and its impressive manager. Much has been made of Ronald Koeman for his business since taking over at Southampton and rightly so, however it is undeniable that the likes of Koeman boast a prestigious reputation in the football world that affords them a clear advantage in attracting players. Monk entered the cut-throat arena of wheeling and dealing with no such prior leg-up yet has been able to bring in international talents and World Cup stars such as Bafétimbi Gomis and Jefferson Montero. Contrary to the unwritten transfer window consensus, Monk has not been hampered by his modest international standing, and instead has overseen an array of high-profile additions. He hasn’t just backed himself in recruiting players but in retaining them too. Just this week the former central defender delivered a statement of intent to all who would listen in stating rival clubs should ‘forget’ bidding for any of his current squad. It is difficult to accept that Monk is not even two years into his first managerial job when is already calling shots in one of the most fiercely contested transfer markets on the planet.
Over the last decade the lack of English managerial talent at the top level has been bemoaned across pubs and pundits nationwide. In Garry Monk we have our very own home-grown success whose achievements for some strange reason we are reluctant to get excited about – never mind laud loudly from the rooftops. The Swansea boss may not be the ‘special one’, but he has qualities that deserve much more attention that they receive, making him the Premier League’s ultimate unsung one.
Featured image by Andy Pearson[separator type=”thin”]
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Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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