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Garry Monk has admitted he felt “drained” by his time as Swansea City manager as he prepares to face his old club.
The former Swans boss – now in charge of Birmingham City – was sacked less than three years ago, when the club were still a mid-table Premier League outfit.
Since then, a torrent of turbulent water has passed under the bridge for both Monk and the club where he spent a decade as both player and then manager in succession to Michael Laudrup.
Swansea have gone through Alan Curtis (twice), Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement, Leon Britton and Carlos Carvalhal leading them into matches before settling on Graham Potter, while Monk has moved on from Leeds United and Middlesbrough before arriving at Birmingham.
The former centre-back welcomes his old club to St. Andrews on Friday night with the Swans aiming to go top of the Championship table with a third successive victory.
But he admits their presence will always stir old memories and says: “It will always be my most difficult job because I felt such a huge responsibility to the club.
“I felt very drained at times because I knew the fans, players and owners and I felt the weight of every decision. It was a lot of pressure but you’re in the frying pan and I loved it.”
Monk joined the Swans when they were at the bottom of the Football League pyramid in 2004, but the culmination of his playing career would come seven years later as he captained the side to victory in the Championship play-off final.
“I was at Southampton but I was in and out of the first team and I just wanted to play football,” remembered Monk. “I had some reservations because it was League Two at the time and I’d been out on loan in other leagues and felt I was capable of playing at a higher level. But the bottom line is I wanted to play.
“I don’t think anyone could envisage what actually happened after that. We got the feeling we were moving forward and then we got that first promotion. The rest, as they say, is history.”
More surprises were to come. When Laudrup was sacked in early 2014, chairman Huw Jenkins turned to the injured former captain to try and steer the club to safety.
The campaign that followed Monk’s permanent appointment was historic as Swansea came eighth, their highest final position in the Premier League and best top-flight finish since 1982.
“I was obviously still playing and had a year left on my contract so it was a big shock,” he said. “I was injured at the time but it was my testimonial year and that’s what I was thinking about, before maybe moving on to play a couple of years somewhere else.
“You have to give credit to Huw Jenkins. It was a brave decision and I don’t think that will happen again at Premier League level. He had big trust in me and I’ll always be grateful for that. I didn’t feel then that I was manager of the club I was just thinking about the 13 games. But then that went well, we managed to get safe and I got a taste for it.”
The strain soon told, though, and after a poor start to the 2015/16 campaign Monk was dismissed and his 12-year stay at the club came to an end.
Monk’s next job at Leeds was something of a success as he took the club to seventh in the Championship in 2016/17, although it must be added that a late-season collapse saw them miss out on what seemed a certain spot in the play-offs.
He moved on to Middlesbrough, where things were progressing until he was surprisingly sacked last December.
Now at Birmingham where, much like at Swansea, Monk found himself trying to keep a club safe towards the back end of a campaign. That was achieved on the final day of last season but any hopes of a record-breaking follow-up were tempered over the summer by a transfer embargo. For Monk, though, it’s just another hurdle to overcome.
“I’ve gained a lot of experience in a short period of time,” he said. “Through all of [my jobs] I’ve tried to make the best of it and it’s about keeping the players away from it and trying to help the club get back on course.
“It’s about doing our best with the restrictions we have and you have to get on with it. We have to be realistic but that doesn’t mean we can’t want it more or fight more for it.”
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