Monk raring to get started
FIRST impressions matter and there’s a no nonsense, business-like vibe surrounding Garry Monk.
His first press conference as Middlesbrough’s new manager went well on Monday.
There were few jokes, as you’d expect, though Monk did deal with awkward questions well.
The TV cameras were out in force and there were a fair few members of the written press, though a smattering of North-east scribes were on international duty and therefore unable to attend.
The conference was slated to start at 11am and, sure enough, Monk and Neil Bausor walked into the media room bang on time.
Unusually, Steve Gibson was absent. The chairman has typically turned up for the unveiling of a new manager but left his chief-executive in charge for Monk’s big day.
It was Bausor who got proceedings under way, introducing the new manager with a short statement welcoming ‘Garry Monk as the new manager of Middlesbrough Football Club’ and confirming that the 38-year-old has penned a three year contract.
The chief exec also explained that he would be discussing the ‘development of his support team’ over the coming days, saying: “We’ll work with Garry over coming days to piece together the support staff.”
Then he opened the floor to questions.
Monk looked assured, dressed in a sober grey suit with dark tie and with fair hair neatly slicked back he looked every inch the modern-day manager, or indeed business executive. He spoke well, too.
He knew there’d be a couple of curve balls to bat away, the most testing of which surrounded his departure from Leeds United.
His tactic was to get his retaliation in early and simply explained there were two separate situations developing once the season ended, one at Leeds and one concerning Boro’s interest.
As far as Leeds were concerned he said he expected to discuss future plans with the United board after a relatively successful season but that didn’t transpire and he said he’d become a “manager out of a job”.
Monk then said Middlesbrough had all the “tick boxes” he was looking for in a club, hence his decision to sign on the dotted line.
“It’s a fantastic challenge for me,” he said. “Once I spoke to him (Gibson) it was very clear this was going to be the right club for me.”
The potentially awkward issue was Ben Gibson’s future. It’s no secret the club’s England defender is attracting interest from other clubs and Boro will have a job on their hands to keep such a valuable asset.
Monk said he was one of a number of players “integral to the club” so that issue would be discussed but at the moment he was focusing on assessing the playing staff and looking forward to working with all of them and would make any key decisions from that point forward.
The message was he hadn’t had time to address massive issues like the future Ben Gibson so early in his time with Boro, but he’d get around to it soon enough.
A question on every fan’s lips is: Are Boro going straight back up?
Monk’s answer was: “Of course it’s the ambition. I’ve signed three years and I’d like to make it at the first attempt.
“This club is equipped, it’s ready and determined and the ambition from all of us is to bounce back at the first time of asking.”
Bausor did step in to answer a question about Steve Agnew’s future.
He said: “Steve’s been fantastic and a great servant to this football club for a number of years and we hold Steve in the utmost of respect for everything that he’s done for us and we’ll be talking to him over the coming days.”
There was a moment of levity when it was put to Monk that Steve Gibson had vowed to ‘smash the Championship next season’.
The manager shot back quickly with a simple: “No pressure then!”
That lightened the mood but he then pointed out that he’d been working in high pressure situations with both Swansea and Leeds so it’s nothing new.
So, some tricky questions were controlled deftly.
But he knows actions speak louder than words and Monk insisted that there’s a lot of hard work ahead of him and the players as the new season closes in.
He’ll spend the next few days, as Bausor said, finalising his backroom team ahead of pre-season training.
We can expect a raft of friendlies to be confirmed in the next week or so and a trip abroad for a training camp and warm-up games to be rubberstamped.
It’s fair to say Monk has passed his first test as manager but there are many challenges to come.
On the evidence of his first press conference, he’ll relish each and every one.
New manager Garry Monk speaking at his first Boro press conference