Monk: I knew instantly Blues was a club that was going to suit me
GARRY Monk says he immediately knew Birmingham City was the right club for him – because he ‘gets’ what the club means to Bluenoses on and off the pitch.
From the moment Monk walked through the door in March, with Blues lying in the Championship relegation zone and a fanbase fragmented, things have looked up.
Not only have results dramatically improved on the field – Blues have swapped that relegation position for a side on the cusp of the play-offs within nine months – but the club has extended their collective arm into the community. They are efforts that haven’t gone unnoticed among the support.
Why is it, then, that Monk has been able to ‘get’ Birmingham City Football Club?
“It’s because I’m a nutter,” he smiled. “It’s just a feeling you have, you can walk into some clubs and, with it still being a good club, it’s just a different feeling.
“I knew instantly when I walked into the club it was a club that was going to suit me. Because of what it’s been through, everyone is so willing to do better.
“Getting that connection, I wouldn’t say it was simple but it was much more straightforward. Being able to communicate that properly and having those channels open was huge.
“That’s something we’ve really worked hard on. Everyone deserves it ; our fans, the players, the staff.
“Forget the football on the pitch and everything that happens with that, having that connection as a club is huge.
“We can get even better. From where we were at when we came in, it’s a huge testament and everyone should be proud.”
In July, Blues announced a partnership with former striker Geoff Horsfield’s very own foundation and Monk, his coaching staff and members of the playing squad have joined in everything, from DIY to feeding the homeless.
More is planned, too; representatives of the squad will visit Heartlands Hospital before Christmas and the club continues to work closely with Horsfield.
The manager was eager to point out that, unlike at other clubs he’s managed, these players don’t always wait to be asked before heading out into the community. He’s enjoyed it himself, too.
“Being able to have social media and being able to go out and work with Geoff into the community is huge. It’s so satisfying, it opens your eyes,” Monk continued.
“The players have embraced it too; they’ve gone out of their way to go and do that. They don’t just wait for the club to ask them, which happens at a lot of other clubs.
“As players they’ve gone out off their own backs at times and actively done stuff as well as the stuff for the club. They’ve been fantastic and it’s growing all the time. Everyone is seeing the benefit of that. There’s a real strong attitude towards progressing.”
Monk also recognised the support his side has enjoyed and fed off, both at St Andrew’s – where Blues are unbeaten in 15 – and around the country.
“Teams can’t help where they’re placed or situated, but if you think of London clubs, you could walk out of a London stadium and bump into six, seven, eight, nine fans of other clubs,” he added.
“Here, it’s pretty much Birmingham-based. Everyone I bump into are Birmingham fans. Maybe other fans aren’t as confident to come up to you! The majority of people I speak to when I’m out and about, and I know the staff are the same, are Birmingham fans.
“It (the feelgood factor) was there at the end of last season and I think it showed our fans what Birmingham can be when it’s all together.
“Everyone has played their part, inside and outside the club, and that’s just got stronger and stronger.
“The support we and the players have had has been unconditional and that’s why the players wanted to show such a strong response (following the defeat to Villa).
“That’s the sign of a club making progression.”
>Blues’ players Maikel Kieftenbeld, left, and Marc Roberts, right, give Geoff Horsfield a hand
>Garry Monk and Blues’ fans have taken each other to their hearts