Garry Monk has been appointed as Middlesbrough’s new manager, having signed a three-year contract at the Riverside. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson looks at how the 38-year-old has been confounding expectations throughout his career


IN his autobiography, “Loud, Proud and Positive”, which was released when he was still a player with Swansea City, Garry Monk describes the moment when his footballing outlook changed.

A talented teenager with Torquay Colts, Monk had been invited to attend summer training sessions with Watford and was part of a group of youngsters who were called into youth coach Stuart Murdoch’s office to be told whether they would be offered apprentice terms.

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“Twelve of us sat anxiously in a room waiting to be called in to see Stuart,” said Monk. “Five had gone in looking nervous, and had come out all smiles as they had been offered contracts.

“It was now my turn to chat with Stuart. But I came out looking as glum as I had gone in. Watford didn’t want me. I then had to stay in the room and watch the other six go in for their meeting. They were all signed up by the club. I was the only one who wasn’t. It was horrible watching their happy faces.”

Football is littered with such tales. The majority of those who are rejected in such a manner fail to come back from the disappointment. A handful, however, dig deep into their reserves of mental fortitude and resolve to spend the rest of their career proving people wrong. Monk falls into that category.

Now 38, Middlesbrough’s new manager has spent the last two decades confounding expectations and breaking through the ceilings that have been placed in his way. Not good enough to play for Southampton, who he eventually joined from Torquay? He spent time on loan at Stockport, Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley in an attempt to prove his worth.

Initially greeted with scepticism when he signed for Swansea City in 2004? He impressed manager Kenny Jackett to the extent that he was made captain as the Swans won promotion from League One. Not good enough for the Championship? He helped Swansea win promotion to the Premier League. Not good enough for the Premier League? He was integral to the Welsh club successfully establishing themselves in the top-flight, and eventually finished his career with 226 league appearances for Swansea to his name.

The Northern Echo:

A committed, resilient centre-half, he was hugely popular at the Liberty Stadium, both on and off the field. Yet when Michael Laudrup was dismissed in 2014, it was still a huge surprise when he was installed as player-manager. Not good enough for such a pressurised position in the Premier League? It was time for Monk to display his mettle once again.


WALKING out of a dressing room one day as a manager, and returning the following morning as the boss can be one of the hardest things to pull off in football. Just ask Gareth Southgate, who still describes his experiences cutting his managerial teeth at Middlesbrough as the toughest of his career.

You have to strike a delicate balance between retaining the relationships you established as a player, and establishing sufficient authority to enable you to make the difficult decisions that are required now your role has changed.

Speak to anyone who was with him in the dressing room at Swansea, and it is clear that Monk took to his new position like a duck to water. His first season in charge saw the Swans finish in eighth position in the Premier League, with a record points tally, and while he was dismissed the following December, with Swansea in 15th position in the table, it could still be argued he was overachieving given the size of the club he was leading.

How was he so successful? The author Michael Calvin puts it best, having spent time with Monk as he was writing his book on the art of management, “Living on the Volcano”. Calvin described Monk as the “perfect mixture of the old and new school”, and it appears to be that blend that has persuaded Steve Gibson he is the right man to lead Middlesbrough’s attempts to win promotion next season.

Monk can be tough and uncompromising when he needs to be. In the early days of his Swansea reign, he told one of his closest friends, Nathan Dyer, he would have to find new employers, and having enjoyed a lengthy playing career himself, he knows when players are trying to cut corners.

The Northern Echo:

“I know people like that,” he told Calvin. “I know the people who try to nick a yard when we’re doing sprints. The things is - they know that I know. I take the excuses away.”

But whereas some former players – Roy Keane, for instance – struggle to accept there are alternative ways of nurturing what once came naturally to them, Monk is part of a new breed of manager that is willing to think outside the box in the pursuit of marginal gains.

At Swansea, he gave each new player an Ipad on their first day at the club. That Ipad contained Monk’s blueprint for Swansea City, a template each individual was expected to follow every day.

During training, Monk would often be accompanied by sports psychologist, Ian Marshall, who would stand with him and observe the body language of the players. At times, Monk would wear a radio microphone so he could listen to himself back after training and assess whether he was adopting the right tone of voice to ensure his messages were adequately conveyed. “The brain can only handle three bullet points,” said Monk of his coaching technique. “So that’s what I convey.”


SO far, so Aitor Karanka. Even those Middlesbrough players who eventually fell out with Karanka would concede he was a star turn on the training ground, but whereas Monk’s predecessor was inflexible and lacking in man-management skills, the club’s new manager has proved adept at moulding himself to suit the environment in which he is located.

How else could he have survived at Leeds United, the Championship’s biggest basket case, but a club that Monk almost led into the play-offs last season?

Seasoned Leeds watchers gave Monk three or four months under the crazy control of Massimo Cellino, but he sailed through last season with barely a wobble as he successfully balanced the need to stand his ground with the requirements of appeasing a notoriously volatile boss.

The Northern Echo:

He will not encounter that at Middlesbrough, but he will find himself having to re-energise a club that fell flatter than a burst balloon in the second half of last season.

“It’s not just what people see on the pitch from Gary,” said former Leeds midfielder David Prutton, who is now a pundit with Sky Sports. “But also because he seemed to really throw everybody together.

“He built up a really good relationship between himself and the fans, and he was a bit of a buffer between the owner and the fans. He gave the fans that bit of hope they needed to get through slightly tougher times.”

If he can achieve that at the Riverside, he will have got off to a good start.