GARRY MONK was appointed as Middlesbrough manager a couple of weeks after walking out of his former position at Leeds. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson spoke to the new Boro boss at his first press conference, and discovered why he was so keen to swap one role for the other

 

SINCE the end of last season, Garry Monk has had two key meetings with football club owners. The context might have been the same, discussing how he would be able to assemble a squad capable of winning promotion from the Championship next season, but the outcome of the talks could hardly have been more different.

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While one meeting ended with the 38-year-old walking away from his position at the head of Leeds United, the other led to him agreeing to take over at Middlesbrough. As one door closed, another swung ajar.

The first meeting saw him sitting opposite new Leeds United owner, Andrea Radrizzani, and quickly convinced Monk it was time to walk away from Elland Road. There was uncertainty about the remit of his role, and a lack of clarity about how Leeds’ new executive structure, featuring former Boro technical director Victor Orta, would work. Having successfully dealt with the unpredictable demands of Radrizzani’s predecessor, Massimo Cellino, Monk clearly felt the goalposts were moving again.

“After the season I had at Leeds, and expecting them to go forward with the process at the football club, I discussed the situation with the new owners but couldn’t quite find an agreement,” said the Middlesbrough boss, who was formally unveiled in his new position yesterday.

“I went there and worked with Massimo originally, but new people came in and there was a new structure. I talked to the new ownership about what the new process would be, and thought it would carry on, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out.

“I don’t really want to go into the detail of that right now, but it didn’t suit me and so I had to take a decision. There were things that didn’t tick the boxes for me, so I knew I needed a new challenge. Then, I was a manager out of a job.”

At that point, Boro came calling. Having decided that Steve Agnew was not the right man to lead his club’s recovery mission in the wake of last season’s relegation, Boro chairman Steve Gibson formulated a two-man shortlist.

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Nigel Pearson was regarded as a viable contender, but Monk was quickly inked in as Gibson’s number one. There was a wait of a week or so as Monk enjoyed a family holiday, but on his return to England, the former centre-half was invited to the North-East for a formal interview.

Suffice to say sitting opposite Gibson was rather different to the experience of meeting the new regime at Leeds. Monk was promised complete control over key recruitment decisions. It was up to him who he wanted to sell, and up to him who he wanted to buy. He would be ‘manager’ not ‘head coach’, and could expect to have more than £20m at his disposal despite Boro’s relegation last season.

Yes, there would be issues to address given Boro’s experiences as they dropped out of the Premier League. Dressing-room morale is in need of rebuilding, confidence will have to be renewed. But Boro remain a financially-stable club run by an owner who gives his managers a chance. As Monk knows only too well, that is a relatively rare combination in the Football League.

“It’s good to be working with a clarity within the club,” he said. “Throughout the club, everyone knows what they have to do and how to go about it. The structure, the ambition, the squad we have here - it is a fantastic club and I’m excited for the challenge.

“The club are quite well down the line with a lot of things they need to do, a lot of the tick boxes I was looking for. There’s a great base here, and a lot of good things in place. There is a clear idea here of what we want to do.

“Yes, the club have had a very difficult season, but there are very strong foundations here, at the club and with the squad. That doesn’t mean the season is a given, but it gives you a good start and with hard work and determination, you can achieve.”

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Determination is a characteristic that has been easy to discern throughout Monk’s career, first as a player, when he confounded his critics to lead Swansea into the Premier League, and then as a manager, when he made a mockery of claims he was too young to take over a side in the top-flight by leading the Swans to an eighth-place finish in his first season at the Liberty Stadium.

Having had their fingers burned at the end of Aitor Karanka’s reign, both Gibson and his chief executive, Neil Bausor, had a desire to appoint a domestic boss this summer.

The continental structure that had been built around Karanka, with a powerful technical director, has been demolished, and Monk is now lord and master of all he surveys. There is a risk in placing so much power in one man’s hands, but having watched their new boss work in both the Premier League and Championship, Boro’s rulers are happy they have made the right decision.

“I think we all recognised we needed to freshen things up and bring some different thinking in,” said Bausor. “And that’s what we’re doing. Garry is going to lead that now. We’ve got that figurehead, and we’ve got a manager in place that can lead his team, on and off the pitch.

“Garry’s got a fantastic track record, both at Swansea and Leeds. Speaking to him, his character and ambition, and his aspirations, align with ours. Culturally, I think the fit is very good for us as a club. That alignment of views and aspirations really does fit together with us. We see Garry as somebody who can lead us forward and hopefully take us to where we want to go.”