The Premier League’s youngest manager is a modest chap at heart, but it is hard to not equate what Swansea City are achieving this season very much with the self-effacing Garry Monk himself.
As the Swans reached the mythical top-flight safety plateau of 40 points faster than they have before in any of their Premier League campaigns with a battling win at Burnley it was hard not to imagine it was a moment of peak satisfaction too for Monk himself.
This was the man, let’s remember, whose appointment little more than a year ago led to raised eyebrows and not a few whispers and louder of discontent.
Rush to 40
‘What did this young greenhorn know about football management anyway? I mean come on, this is the Premier League not the Conference and no place for someone to learn on the job?’
But learn on the job Monk has and fast too. His rush to 40 points is in one game better than Michael Laudrup managed two years ago, Monk’s side’s current eighth place standing is one better than the Swans’ best ever finish in the Premier League too. A feat also achieved under the Dane.
But if Laudrup, top dog at four clubs before the Swans remember, is in the process of being eclipsed it is another of his predecessors Monk has in his sights right now.
Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency
Garry Monk has his sights set on Brendan Rodgers’ Premier League benchmark
Brendan Rogers did so well in Wales that it was to the mighty Liverpool he next jumped ship. Who knows the extent of Monk’s ambitions, but reeling in the record of Rodgers would surely give him delicious delight for now.
In 2012 Rogers led the Swans to a finish with 47 points, their highest Premier League total ever.
Monk’s Swans now are, of course, seven behind with 11 games of the campaign left. With the likes of Aston Villa, Leicester, Hull and other such eminent winnable games remaining it would seem the record is on.
That you suspect might give Monk the greatest satisfaction. The man not ready for the job, the ‘greenhorn’ not experienced enough proving, in fact, to be the best Premier League manager the club has had so far.
Silence the doubters
Of course Monk knows better than to take the credit himself, he is learning fast as we say, knowing only Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or a mad man might crow about his own talents and get away with it.
But he does accept that what he is guiding the Swans toward in this excellent season is a statement of sorts and one that might just silence those doubters of his for good.
“It is a bit of everything. It is a bit of a statement from the squad itself, from the club as well, but of course it is a statement from myself,” said Monk.
“Coming in to this job, I understood it was an opportunity that wouldn’t happen very often at this level, but I think I proved my capabilities at the end of last season.
Burnley v Swansea City in pictures
“This season it was about me trying to push on and trying to put those doubters who were there at the start of the season and will always be there, it gets less and less as you go on, I just have to trust what I am doing is the right thing.
“Of course when you get results and achieve things, things like 40 points earlier than you have before, it helps reaffirm to yourself that you are doing the right thing. For myself, of course it is, but I am more concentrated on doing well for the team and making sure they progress and along with my career, hopefully the two will go hand in hand.”
The Swans reached the 40 point mark at Turf Moor in a game that was in truth about as entertaining as watching a particularly dull documentary about the joys of watching paint dry.
Swans more pro-active
Sean Dyche’s men confounded everyone by coming up to the Premier League in the first place, but are now confirming everyone’s predictions by looking as if they are going straight back down.
In truth they were the more pro-active team for most of this encounter, strong and direct and imbued with an energy and wildness only terror and paranoia can provide.
The Swans though are no soft touch these days and they held firm and when their moment came they took it, striking like a footballing viper if that is not too absurd a notion.
Swansea City Premier League points total finishes
Or rather it was the Claret’s own misfortune Swansea benefited from as, in a very apt mad-cap goalmouth scramble on 64 minutes at Turf Moore, Burnley defender Kieran Trippier somehow contrived to poke the ball over his own line.
It was all rather scrappy and ugly and unsatisfying and if there are critics of Monk out there still then it is that aspect that they might alight upon.
Monk, a no-nonsense defender himself in his playing days, has somehow transformed the Swans into a mirror image of that.
A hard-working, tough to break down unit, but is it all at the expense of the style, the grace and flair that has always been the Swans trademark in the top-flight?
What of the ‘Swansalona’ way now? Is it safe under Monk.
Has the torch passed down from Roberto Martinez been dropped on Monk’s watch? And even if all the records in the world are broken, will they have come at too high a price? Are the Swans to move forward under Monk being mediocre? Not so says the manager himself.
Garry Monk on Burnley win:
“I think we are more adaptable now for sure. We have played some great stuff over the years, but the flip side is if you want to go come to somewhere like Burnley on a difficult pitch, it is a sign of a good team to grind things out,” said Monk.
“There has been slight criticism that we are changing the Swansea way. Not at all, we are just adding to it and adding more strings to our bow. For me it is a good for the club and the players to have different ways of working.”
Rodgers record might be in his sights then, but what of more? What of, dare we whisper it, Europe itself?
Swansea City expectations
Monk is ready for that one, verbally jousting: “This is the problem, expectations. You have got to dream, but you also have to be realistic. Whether that (Europe) is reachable, I don’t really know.
“The next focus is targets closer to home. Like I said, 47 points. We are seven points away, great if we can get there early, but it might take more games. It will be dictated by the next few results. I don’t set those long-term goals.”
No long terms goals maybe for the top-flight’s youngest boss then, but plenty for his critics to ponder on now. That much is for sure.