Mumbai: During his 39th birthday last week, Garry Monk was rewarded with the best ever present – a three-and-a-half year contract with Birmingham City.
In a managerial career spanning more than four years, the Englishman has witnessed several highs and lows. Establishing himself as a club legend with over 339 appearances for Swansea City, Monk was honoured with the manager's job in 2014, taking over from the reputed Michael Laudrup.
The trust was soon repaid as Monk helped the Swans stay in 2014-15 Premier League season, guiding them to a club-best eighth-place finish. It was followed by a trip to Elland Road in the summer of 2016, joining Leeds United before taking over newly-relegated Middlesbrough almost a year later.
Shockingly, in December 2017, his time at Riverside ended in an unceremonious fashion as he was shown the boot despite a decent run of form with the Smoggies.
Now, with less than 10 games remaining for the Blues, Monk faces a daunting task of keeping them alive in the Championship after taking over from Steve Cotterill.
Life has come full circle for Monk. From once being viewed as a prominent candidate as England manager to now waiting to prove himself once again in English second-tier.
He has gone from hero to zero. He had his fair share of praise and criticism. But Monk remains one of the brightest and youngest managers in the modern game, a rare breed in English football.
He caught up Deccan Chronicle in an exclusive interview during the Football Movement in February. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
When did the thought of pursuing a job as a football manager come to your mind?
For me, it came out of the blue, more natural progression from going into coaching and then into management. When you are looking to play long enough, you naturally start to think about what you’re going to do later. A player’s career is so short. You are in it and you think are going to last forever but soon realise that it will all come to an end. I was 26 when I had a serious knee injury, so I thought about it at that time. I felt I wasn’t going to make it back, but I made it. It scared me and made me think if I had finished up at that point, it was all over. Football was all I really knew and my expertise was in this field. That was the time I started thinking about pursuing my license, a coaching career, paying more attention to managers and how they went about their job.
The Middlesbrough sacking must’ve been a difficult pill for you to swallow?
It came across as a shock. The form was good; we had six wins in 10 games. When you take a job in England now, you take it knowing that the pressure is there. We live in a world where instant success is needed. When I lost my job at Swansea, I had around 150-200 texts from managers, some I did not even know of, with messages saying, welcome to the sack club. But look, throughout your career, there are going to be periods where things will go right and wrong.
The sacking was harsh, in the back of your mind you know the reality of owners, people have the right to make whatever decisions they want. If they make this type of decisions whether you agree with them or not, you have to respect that and be ready to move on. I would have liked to finish the job and everyone at the club was working hard and with the objective well within reach. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity but you have to take that given the environment we are working now.
You are one of the fewest managers who has managed teams in both the Premier League and the Championship. How different is the pressure?
The only difference is the level of scrutiny. In the Premier League, it is 24 hours in terms of the media. Anything can happen on any given day and if that occurs, it’s in the loop continuously. In the championship, the job is exactly the same. Same pressure. Same details. Same pressure from owners and fans. But the level of scrutiny creeps lower and lower as you go down in the leagues. It is a bit higher at the top, in terms of the coverage. Expectations are a lot more at the top and the media elevates that.
Carlos Carvalhal has done an exceptional job at Swansea City so far. Do you think he can help your former team survive relegation?
Yes, he can. I like Carlos, I know him well. He’s brought a big energy with him, hasn’t he? We always had that objective at Swansea as we went up the leagues. We knew being a small club, we had to get what was unexpected from the outside. Results. A result against the bigger teams is incredibly hard to get but we knew we could challenge them. And we did that every season. The last few seasons have been quite difficult, the actual games where there has been a catalyst for change has been against the bigger teams. So it’s quite interesting to see that mindset still in place having left the club now.
The pressure is more difficult for English managers now given the number of foreign coaches being hired. Do you think managing a club abroad is now the way to go?
I look at it differently not where you are from or what you do. It is what it is. If opportunities are limited, you need to against the grain. If you are good at the job, you deserve it, no matter who you are. Same with players. As I said before, at some point in my career I want to go abroad and get life experiences. My focus right now for the foreseeable future is England and that’s what I'm trying to do a good job there. But also, I want to go and get experiences in different countries and I hope that comes my way going forward in my managerial career.