On Monday, we finally saw the long-anticipated unveiling of Garry Monk as the new Boro manager – though not in the more recent position of head coach I would guess since he referred to himself as being in management. It had appeared from the outside to be a rather protracted process where several candidates had been supposedly interviewed and asked to prepare detailed plans for the purpose of taking the club forward – though perhaps they were only being lined up as a plan B in case the Monk deal hit a snag. It sounds like he had been identified as the right man quite a while ago but there had been problems with his contractual position at Leeds United that had caused the delay rather than Boro being unable to make a decision – whilst Monk had decided not to extend his contract with the Elland Road club under it’s new ownership, it’s quite possible he may have still been theoretically employed by them until his existing contract expired at the end of June – which I imagine would have been quite late to install a new man at Boro given the need to make preparations for the coming season.
Though it’s hard to tell how much of the news about Pearson, Agnew or other candidates was just exaggerated rumour to fill the void or even news management to deflect attention from the task of securing the main man. The fact that Monk had quickly become odds-on favourite to head to Boro after walking out on Leeds, together with stories in the media from those closely connected to the Yorkshire club must have had some credence – perhaps Boro had long since been fishing for Monk or perhaps he had even been poached and then handed on a plate to Steve Gibson after Orta was installed as Director of Football – at some point perhaps the bones will be picked out of that particular dish.
Though at Monday’s press conference Monk played a straight bat (as we say in football) over anything regarding Leeds and simply explained that he had intended to continue at Elland Road but it became apparent that the new structure at Leeds didn’t suit him, which was no doubt code for the fact he wouldn’t work under Orta as Director of Football – though I can possibly think of one out-of-work manager who would probably find it ‘amazing’ to be given the chance.
Anyway, enough of the chase, what sealed it for our new man was that Steve Gibson’s passion, desire and determination for the club was there to see. It was this determination that Monk shares and he wants to be challenged as a manager, which in his words meant this was going to be both a fantastic challenge for him and Middlesbrough – so it became very clear for Monk when speaking to Gibson that Boro was going to be the right club for him.
In fact the new Boro manager said that as soon as he spoke to Middlesbrough it was was clear it was the right opportunity for him – it ticked all the right boxes. Though what those boxes are (or tick-boxes as Monk referred to them in an almost involuntary way) wasn’t really determined in the press conference even though they were mentioned quite often – only once did we see inside one particular box and it revealed that he thought Boro have a good talented squad with a core of players who know the Championship. I presume that is now a memory much fresher in the players minds than the one regarding the Premier League, which will no doubt be buried so deep that it will only be reachable for a hypnotherapist with eyeballs larger than those of David Moyes with severe hyperthyroidism.
So what is the Challenge?
Monk is not phased by Steve Gibson’s declaration of wanting to smash the league and is comfortable with working under pressure, as that is what he says he likes and is happy in having that ambition. Though he agrees that the ambition and objective is to gain promotion in his first season – but Monk did try to manage expectations somewhat by saying he’d like to make that in his first year but with the recognition of how difficult the league is. He gave the example that last season only one of the three relegated clubs made it back up (personally I’ve forgotten which one), which shows how difficult and competitive the Championship is – in fact he also made the point that it took 80 points to even gain a play-off place last season and his Leeds team finished seventh on 75 points, which under normal circumstances would have been enough for sixth spot. Though you could argue for a team in sixth place to gather 80 points it may also indicate the league as a whole was less competitive otherwise they would not have found it so easy to register so many points – but Monk is confident with the challenge ahead as he thinks Boro are equipped, ready and determined to bounce back at the first attempt.
The new Boro manager thinks the key is the opportunity and understanding of what the club wants to do and how we as a club are going to go about it – it’s the clarity of that which appeals to him most and he believes the club has a lot of good strong foundations – though perhaps he was pushing the foundation analogy envelope too far on his first day as one would have been enough.
When asked about what his style of football is, Monk preferred not to put forward a label but simply said that he’d leave his style and philosophy for others to describe (which no doubt many will be happy to oblige) as the important thing is to win games and that is the purpose of how he trains himself, his staff, players and club – on top of that sits his footballing philosophy and he believes the key is to get the crowd engaged and the players engaged. All of which sounds refreshingly pragmatic and in contrast to being too attached to any particular methodology or dogma – though he’d probably be rubbish at advertising something like shampoo (though perhaps slightly better than Steve Agnew getting the wash and go gig) if he hasn’t got any of those meaningless pseudo-science buzz-words to hand in order to make himself sound cutting edge.
Though the issue of who will form the manager’s coaching team is still undecided and Neil Bausor said that the club will be discussing with Monk about his support staff in the coming days – the Boro Chief Executive also responded to a question on whether Steve Agnew has a role by saying how the club hold him in the ‘utmost respect’ and will discuss his future in the coming days – that sounded like a phrase that normally precedes ‘we wish him well in his future employment’ as someone is thanked and waved goodbye. Though it’s odd that if he was not part of the club’s plans he should have left already – perhaps Monk is still being persuaded of his merits but the danger is that it would put somewhat of a brake on a fresh start.
Building a squad
The first job of any new manager is to decide on who stays and who leaves and what players are required in order to make a squad capable of achieving the objective. It’s early days for the new manager and he’ll be awaiting the return of his players from their summer hols with interest – plus no doubt he’ll be made aware of who has shown an interest in leaving the club.
Monk said that he’s still in the process of assessing the players and he’s looking forward to meeting them. The aim is to discuss the situation with the squad over the next few weeks and once he’s had a chance to work with the players he’ll be able to assess how they fit into his plans and decide what type of players will be needed in terms of new additions – he’s excited to be working with the players as they have a lot of talent but they have had a big disappointment last season – but it would be the failure to respond that disappointment that would be the real disappointment. He says the key is to refocus and have the confidence to respond to the next challenge.
Monk is aware that Boro are in a healthy financial situation (possibly one of his ‘tick-boxes’) and he will have more than a decent budget made available to him. Though quite wisely he proclaimed ‘It’s not about how much money you spend it’s about how well you spend what you’ve got’ – that’s a message perhaps others at the club would do well to remember. The Boro manager is clear that when it come to recruitment the central issue is ‘only to do things that are going to help the group we’ve got’ – which I take to mean not bringing in players that will upset the dressing room or undermine the principles of the group as a whole. Monk certainly sounds like he knows the importance of having a unified group with the whole club pulling in the same direction – something that was allowed to slip last season as the club seemingly broke into factions.
Monk sees his first objective as getting his squad fit for purpose and spoke of how there are certain principles that he follows that are key to helping this group and the club – he wants to help the players get back their confidence so that they can enjoy the challenge ahead and believes there are a lot of things in place that are really good at the club that are going to help everything tie in together – though he forgot to mention the excellent training facilities, which I had thought was a contractual obligation for anyone employed at Boro.
Monk is also prepared to give youth a chance by bringing them into the first team environment but they need to deserve that chance and prove that they’re good enough and develop into a first team player – there will always be a pathway for young players into the first team squad, he declared.
So phase one of Monk’s blueprint has begun and his aim is ‘to get the squad to the point where we’re happy with it and have all the players in place that will be needed’. So it’s going to be a busy few weeks ahead before the season starts – though from his first press conference it looks like he’s a man who means business and knows how to handle the job ahead. The players will soon return and he’ll soon be finding out who are up for the challenge and which players look capable of achieving the goal set by the chairman.
The following table shows the current squad, with those in red now having left the club, those in yellow have had interest from other clubs and could leave – though it’s likely more will fall under that category once they return from their break. From what I can see of those remaining or likely to remain it looks like our core may have somewhat melted and there definitely looks like some strong additions are needed – particularly in attack which looks weak. Another keeper will probably be required and with regard to the defence a lot may depend on whether Gibson stays and Ayala can stay fit – so I suspect more additions in that department will likely be sought.
|Marten de Roon||2777||33||32||1||5||4|
|Julien De Sart||0||–||–||–||–||–|
Just for comparison, here’s what out last promotion winning squad looked like with the players that got us to the promised land. Those who are no longer at the club are shown in red, while those who were either loaned out or didn’t play a league game last season are shown in yellow. Perhaps there are still enough of those who know what it takes to get promoted that are currently still with us but it’s quite conceivable that Boro will be left with only a handful with that useful experience come the first game.
|Ritchie De Laet||846||10||9||1||–||–|
|Julien De Sart||2||2||–||2||–||–|
|Carlos de Pena||242||6||3||3||3||–|