The legacy of Garry Monk

Saturday, 4 July 2020, 19:15
3
4 mins read

30th May 2011.  It will be a date that will be long etched into the memory of every Swansea City fan.  It was the date that the Premier League finally got a Welsh team as the Swans etched their names into history thanks to a 4-2 Championship final win over Reading.

It capped a fantastic performance that at half time looked like one of the biggest cruises in play off final history and could have been so different if it was not for one momentous block from our captain that I will always firmly believe was the moment that said we were heading to the Premier League and Reading were not.

I will never change that belief that if the shot from Hunt went in and the game went to 3-3 that we would not have recovered.  To lose a three goal lead is damaging, to lose a three goal lead in a very short period of time is hugely damaging and I think that to lose a three goal lead in a short period of time with the biggest prize in football waiting is something from which you do not recover.   The late penalty, the Scott Sinclair hat-trick and the ensuing Swansea party all stemmed from that one moment.

Time seemed to stand still though for that moment in the final.  With the scoreline at 3-2, it was almost a slow motion moment that saw the ball rebound off the post.  With Hunt poised, Tatey out of position, my 8 year old daughter hiding away in fear of us blowing our biggest ever chance, it was an outstretched leg of Garry Monk that saved the day and kept us in the lead.  I still don’t know now how Monk reached the ball but it seemed at the time such a fitting moment for a man who joined us in League Two and led us on the pitch into the Premier League.

Monk was a man in pain that day – “It was the biggest game of my career and I was in the worst condition of my career,” he said

“I’d had a virus and probably lost seven or eight pounds.”

The Monk and Swansea story had started back in 2004 when he joined at the start of our last season at the Vetch – a season that was to end in promotion.   A season that saw Monk getting sent off three times.  He was appointed captain in 2006, leading the Swans to promotion from League One in 2008 and that magical day in 2011 when promotion to the top flight was secured.  He held the captaincy until the summer of 2013 when he handed over to Ashley Williams, five months after the two of them lifted the Swans only major trophy – again at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final.

By this time the Swans were managed by Michael Laudrup who had led the side not just to that trophy, but a high Premier League finish and European football was back in South Wales with the Swans heading into the last 32 of the Europa League.   Monk was being lined up for a role behind the scenes with his playing career coming to an end but there were rumours of dressing room unrest – allegedly led by Monk – and the Swans association with Laudrup started to come to an end that few would have seen coming in the heady days of the season before.

With the Swans in a fairly respectable mid table position in February, and just ahead of the Europa League restarting Laudrup was sacked.  Various reports have surfaced in the immediate time and the longer time since but talks of power struggles between players, manager and Chairman (as well as Laudrup’s agent Bayram Tutumlu) meant that what was a glorious period for Swansea City ended in acrimony and unrest.

The Swans were a decent proposition at that time and whilst you would assume that there would be no shortage of potential candidates to take the managers position, the club opted swiftly and quickly to appoint Monk in charge until the end of the season.   The logic behind the appointment was one that Monk had effectively grown up with “the Swansea way” and would continue on the mantra laid down by some of his predecessors in the job.   That was the logic, the critics said it was the cheap option and the “yes” man for the Chairman that Michael Laudrup would never have been.

Monk was 34 and in charge of a Premier League club and his first task was to dispatch Cardiff in the Premier League, something he did with great ease as the Swans ran out 3-0 winners in front of a sell out Liberty crowd.  History will tell you we stayed up that season with one match to spare, reality will tell you that relegation was never a real threat to the side on the pitch.

Monk was rewarded with a three year contract and was the Premier League manager of the month in that August as the Swans sat top of the league.  It was to be our best season in the Premier League with an 8th placed finish and a league double over both Man Utd and Arsenal – just the third time that had been achieved in Premier League history.

Not changed at all!

Monk was given a contract extension but gradually he was dismantling the Swansea way that he had been assumed as the one safe bet to keep going.  Some pointed and said the ego was taking over and – as we see now – that 8th placed finish was probably just about the pinnacle of our Premier League time and the downhill slope was being reached.

In the same way that I remember the clearance at Wembley I remember the time that Monk’s association with the Swans came to an end.  His last game saw us lose to – who would be the surprise champions – Leicester City 3-0 at the Liberty.   We were flattered in that game to only lose by three and it was clear at that point that whilst he had delivered some good times he had also lost the dressing room, the tactical ability to change and the Swansea way.  Ironic for a man who should never have been in that stage.

I remember leaving the ground that evening knowing that Monk’s time at Swansea was up and it will always be a shame that his association had to end that way.  One of the biggest drawbacks in appointing a playing legend into the managerial seat.  I wanted always to remember the happy memories of the captain on the pitch leading his side through some of our greatest times.  I remembered though the way that the highs of the Laudrup era were taken away from us so quickly to the point where we were struggling to pick up a point let alone a win.

Garry Monk’s time at Swansea will never be forgotten by any of us who watched through it all, for many though the bad memories can outweigh the good ones.  But let’s never forget that magical block at Wembley, that sparked so many moments none of us thought we would ever see.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

3 Comments

  1. It’s a shame that “The Block” has since been overshadowed by the deficits of personality and temperament that have become apparent in the years that followed. If he’d gone quietly when Laudrup wanted to move him out he’d have gone with his reputation mostly untarnished.

Comments are closed.

Phil Sumbler

Been watching the Swans since the very late 1970s and running the Planet Swans website (in all its current and previous guises since the summer of 2001 As it stood JackArmy.net was right at the forefront of some of the activity against Tony Petty back in 2001, breaking many of the stories of the day as fans stood against the actions where the local media failed. Was involved with the Swans Supporters Trust from 2005, for the large part as Chairman before standing down in the summer of 2020.

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