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
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