If you didn’t know who Garry Monk was you would be hard pressed to guess that he was a football manager at an elite club by looking at him. He looks just like one of your mates, fresh faced, one of the boys with his confident swagger and brylcreem slicked hair. While within the confines of the football world its hard to believe the rapid progress made by the Bedford lad in such a short space of time.
At just 36 years of age Monk is one of the youngest ever managers in Premier League history and as the new season draws ever nearer Monk will be embarking on just his second full season in football management. His introduction into the cut throat world of football management was certainly a baptism of fire as Swansea entertained their biggest rivals Cardiff. Monk got off to the best possible start as his Swansea team won 3-0 and after that Monk safely steered the Jacks’ clear of relegation.
However I’ll be honest I didn’t give Swansea much hope at the start of last season, I actually had them earmarked for relegation. I thought that Monk was totally out of his depth because of his age and experience, he was like a lost little puppy and his Swansea team were going to be easy pickings for the bigger teams. So it came as quite a surprise that Monk won, deservedly so, the manger of the month award for August as Swansea won their first three games. However once Wilfried Bony had been sold at the turn of the year and they had went through what proved just to be a small sticky patch around that same time I thought they would be sucked down into the relegation battle.
Without Bony Swansea looked painfully lightweight up top and it was hard to see where a steady supply of goals would come from. Bony’s replacement Bafétimbi Gomis looked totally off the pace of the standard needed for the Premier League. Further to this it didn’t seem that Monk was proactive enough in trying to remedy his attacking problems in the January transfer market. But despite the poor run of results in January, Monk belied his young age and never panicked or cracked under the intense media scrutiny he was subjected to. Monk stood firm, when more experienced managers might have cracked, in a calm and honest way. But that’s not to say that Monk isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers when need be. His comments directed at referee Michael Oliver in October of last year brought a warning from the FA but it showed that Monk was quickly finding his feet in the job or when he hit back at Arsene Wengers negative jibes after their victory at the Emirates last season, he certainly wasn’t, is, a lost little puppy.
Monk’s faith in Gomis was justified as the striker suddenly sparked into life and the Frenchman’s overdue contribution helped Swansea to record their highest ever points tally ever in the Premier League. Central to Gomis re-emergence was Monk’s man management of the situation, his belief in the former Lyon striker enabled the player to find his feet despite the media’s, and mine I might add, misgivings about the player.
However I think Monk’s greatest man management feat has been with Jonjo Shelvey. The former Liverpool player is without doubt talented, but it is a mercurial talent. Shelvey’s likeness for a ticking off from the man in black brought him to loggerheads with his manager publicly but since serving his four match ban for his indiscretion against Emre Can against Liverpool at the end of the year there has been a noticeable change in Shelvey’s play, in that his combative nature is now exerted in a more controlled fashion.
At just 23 years of age Shelvey is a player that Monk can build his Swansea team around for the future and the indication is that Monk believes this is the case with Shelvey’s new contract extension. Its a shrewd move on Monk’s part and I can see Shelvey being a future captain of the Swans’. However its not the only astute move made by Monk. There has been a number of examples of some very smart dealings in the transfer market by Monk, for both economical reasons and the quality of player he has brought in. Jack Cork, Federico Fernández, Jefferson Montero and Kyle Naughton in the brief glimpses we have seen of the former Tottenham defender at the Liberty, have all integrated well into Monk’s team.
The signing of André Ayew on a free transfer from Marseille this summer looks another tidy bit of business by Monk, especially given the fact that Ayew was courted by a number of clubs across Europe. Ayew brings that extra bit of class with the ability to do the unexpected, it could very well prove to be one of the signings of the season. The one thing that is concurrent with the majority of Monks acquisitions is that all the players are around the 25 – 26 year old mark, so theoretically they should be entering the prime of their careers. Monk could have easily used the money from the Bony sale on an individual like an ageing superstar or on an over inflated home grown red herring. Instead Monk is building a team and in doing so that has the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts.
What Monk has done in such a sort space of time as the manger of Swansea is nothing short of amazing, he safely navigated Swansea clear of relegation at the end of 2014 season building upon this as he lead Swansea to record their highest ever points total last season, this despite losing their star player halfway through the season while his transfer dealings have proved that he is wise beyond his years. Monk’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed amongst his peers either, both Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew called on the FA to award Monk with last seasons manager of the year award. High praise indeed from two stalwarts of the profession.
The Swansea faithful are approaching this season with a sense of optimism with the agenda set for European qualification, their optimism is totally justified with Monk at the helm, especially considering the rate of his progress. As an Arsenal fan I’m not for one bit looking forward to playing the Jacks’ and that goes for Emirates leg as well. Garry Monk, he might not look like your archetypal football manager but boy he sure seems to know how to be one and a shrewd one at that.