Premier League Clubs Managed: Swansea City (2014-2015)
When Garry Monk was appointed manager of Swansea City in February 2014, it was seen as a brave move by owner Huw Jenkins. This was to be his first experience as a manager and with the club struggling to stay outside the relegation zone; it had the potential makings of either working out well or being a complete calamity.
Monk proved any doubters wrong and actually showed great resolve and got his side playing expansive, attractive football. When he was dismissed in December 2015 after his most difficult spell as a manager with just one win in 11 matches, it was a callous and perhaps, rash move. Monk is still learning and hopes to be back in the top-flight one day. His most recent spell was in the Championship which ended before Christmas 2017 after failing to steer Middlesbrough into the promotion picture after their Premier League relegation last season.
Sluggish start to his playing days
From Bedfordshire, Monk started out his playing time at lowly Torquay United. With their depth of squad limited, he actually made five appearances in Division Three during the 1995-1996 campaign, whilst still a trainee. To complete his apprenticeship, he moved to Southampton and turned fully professional with the south coast side a year later.
He made his Premier League debut in November 1998, replacing the injured Ken Monkou during a game against Derby County. However, his career never really took off with the Saints. He had a two-month loan return to Torquay and another loan period at Oxford United in 2001. After a mini injury crisis among the Southampton defenders, Monk returned to the club and actually started Southampton’s final match at The Dell; a 3-2 win over Arsenal in May 2001.
Further frustrating loan periods occurred afterwards with Yorkshire sides Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley. Garry’s playing career looked to be going nowhere until he joined Swansea City on a free transfer in June 2004.
A decade as a Swan
Monk made his Swansea debut at the old Vetch Field ground against Northampton Town in August 2004. At the time, Swansea were in the bottom tier of the Football League pyramid. He would feature in the club’s first Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City just seven years later.
He would play in all four divisions for the club between 2004 and 2014 and his leadership skills were evident from the outset. He featured 260 times in all competitions for Swansea and was part of the team that won the League Cup in 2013, beating Bradford City 5-0 in the final. In July 2013, he gave up the captain’s armband and passed it onto his central defensive partner, Ashley Williams. Monk’s playing impact was becoming more limited under Michael Laudrup’s spell as Swansea manager. In the background, he began working on his coaching badges. However, he surely couldn’t have expected the step-up as quickly as it occurred.
After a lifeless showing at West Ham United which ended in a 2-0 defeat, Jenkins sacked Michael Laudrup and rather than replace him with an experienced coach, gave Monk the chance as interim player-manager. His first match was a south Wales derby against Cardiff City.
It was a great start for the new manager. Swansea scored three times in the second half to beat their rivals 3-0 and ultimately secured their safety with one match to spare in the 2013-2014 season. Just before the end of the campaign, Monk signed a three-year contract as permanent manager. The foundations seemed to be in place for a lengthy spell in the dugout at the Liberty Stadium.
The highs and lows of management
Swansea’s first match of the 2014-2015 season was a stern test away at Old Trafford against Manchester United, who were also under new management in the form of Louis van Gaal. It was Monk though who would enjoy his afternoon more. Swansea won 2-1, recording the club’s first league win in their history at the Theatre of Dreams. It started a wonderful record for Monk against the most successful side in the Premier League era.
The Swans’ continued their positive start to the season with two further home wins over Burnley and West Bromwich Albion. It meant they sat second in the table at the end of August and meant Monk collected the Manager of the Month award. A second league win would follow over Van Gaal’s Manchester United side in February and in May; a late Bafetimbi Gomis header secured a 1-0 victory away to Arsenal. That meant Swansea became only the third side in Premier League history to have won home and away against both Arsenal and Manchester United in the same season. They finished the 2014-2015 campaign with a record points tally and in a highly commendable eighth position.
The following season started well too. For the second successive campaign, Swansea went unbeaten in August, beating Manchester United yet again along the way. Eight points from four matches had them in the top four. However, that would be as good as it got for Garry Monk. Apart from a late win at Aston Villa towards the end of October, Swansea stopped winning and were losing games more frequently. After a 3-0 dismissal by surprise packages Leicester City, Monk was sacked in December 2015 with the club 15th in the Premier League table. He took charge of 77 games in all competitions with Swansea and there was a great degree of sympathy from many of his colleagues.
Monk took time out of the game before returning to manage Leeds United in the 2016-2017 season. Leeds put in some impressive showings in the Championship and also made the quarter-finals of the League Cup. However, only one win in their last seven outings saw them pipped to the final play-off position by Fulham. Garry surprisingly left Leeds in the summer and a few weeks later, was confirmed as the new Middlesbrough manager.
After a so-so start to his reign on Teeside, Garry Monk parted company with Middlesbrough in December 2017, despite being just three points off the play-offs. Garry Monk will be back in the Premier League one day as a manager. He has a few scores to settle and a few people to prove wrong in the top-flight.