Isn't it time Garry Monk got more credit? All hail a valid Championship Manager of the Season candidate
For only the second time since they were relegated from the Premier League in 2004, Leeds United have a genuine chance to return to the top flight.
With three-quarters of the season gone, they sit fourth in the Championship with an eight-point cushion above seventh place. If they beat QPR at home this weekend, Leeds will have 68 points with nine games remaining – just two wins shy of the average points total required to secure a play-off berth over the course of their 12-year exile. It’s a remarkable feat that has developed without fanfare.
The Yorkshire club has been a decaying institution ever since administration in 2007, standing still – thereby, going backwards – in a league increasingly awash with money. To put the competitive environment into context, consider that eight of the 24 clubs in the second tier currently benefit from Premier League parachute payments, while five others have been boosted by significant external investment.
In the past five seasons, the Whites have never finished higher than 13th or lower than 15th. That’s basically their station, exactly where they belong in the modern-day pecking order of wage bills and balance sheets. Throw in the caveat of a crackpot owner who operates in a whimsical world driven by superstition, not to mention the instability caused by seven permanent managers in barely three years, and it’s easy to understand why the bookmakers rated their chances of promotion in August at no better than eight per cent.
In less than a year, Monk had gone from next big thing to forgotten man, barely even mentioned as a contender for most Championship vacancies
Enter Garry Monk, the one-time future England manager and hero of Living on the Volcano, Michael Calvin’s wonderful journey through the inner sanctum of football management. The chapter on Monk, then at Swansea, was the most enduring, the insight into his methods creating the biggest stir and leaving a lasting impression by dint of his attention to detail and the concrete manner in which he explained his methodology.
Given that Monk had guided Swansea into eighth position the previous season – the second-best finish in the club’s 105-year history, and their best since 1982 – the clamour to acclaim this 'young British manager' in the summer of 2015 was understandable. However, four months after the book’s release, with the Swans 15th in the Premier League following a run of only one win in 11 matches, Monk was out of a job.
That his initial achievements were forgotten to such an extent that he was made to wait 18 months for another opportunity says much about the disposable nature of today’s society. In less than a year, Monk had gone from Next Big Thing to Forgotten Man, barely even mentioned as a contender for most Championship vacancies. That the opportunity he eventually chose to accept was Leeds says much about him.