Garry Monk getting his message across at Sheffield Wednesday
In just his third match in charge, with his much-changed Owls team lining up against a strong-looking Everton outfit who were plainly intent upon getting back in the good books of their manager and fanbase after a limp weekend defeat to Sheffield United, it had the makings of a long night.
In truth, few would have been surprised if Everton – whose expensively assembled line-up featured £50m signing Richarlison and £34m summer arrival Alex Iwobi, among others – had hit the after-burners and ran out victors by perhaps a four or five-goal margin.
The sight of his Owls side pressurising the visitors in front of the Kop for spells of the second half and causing a few tremors in the nervy Toffees defence was a development which was much more to Monk’s liking.
Granted, the final scoreline of Wednesday’s Carabao Cup third-round tie with Everton signified a comfortable-looking two-goal win on paper for the Merseysiders, but his side’s persistence, refusal to throw in the towel and endeavour were redeeming features for Monk.
If anyone can glean anything from the early salvos of the Monk tenure at Hillsborough, it is perhaps that his side will be hard to beat at Championship level.
The Owls chief, whose attentions have now switched to Saturday’s trip to former club Middlesbrough, said: “We are performing well enough to win games. We have just played the highest quality squad that we will probably face all season long and I thought we competed and played very well.
“We need to keep that belief and keep growing it. I did not make changes for the sake of it and you have to see (all) the players. As much as I know them as I managed teams against them, you still need to see if they take onto the pitch how they have been training. I was pleased with a lot of that performance.
“I am trying to drill that mentality to compete the whole way through. You saw that on Saturday against Fulham. We had that attitude overall.
“They have been great and we are in a league which demands that competitive edge for 90 to 95 minutes to the very end in every single game, week after week.
“If we can join that mentality with the quality that is coming through, we can a better chance of being successful in the league we are in.
“I thought they did themselves proud. Of course, we are disappointed with the result. We do not like to lose games.
“But overall, there were a lot of good things in the game. I think the difference was that they were more clinical and we were not.
“We stuck to the task manfully and put in a huge amount of effort. If we could have taken just one of those chances, we would have made it an interesting situation for them.”
Monk professed to being pleased by the contribution of a number of his players, describing Dominic Iorfa’s performance at the back as ‘colossal’ and also reserved praise for midfielders Massimo Luongo and Joey Pelupessy.
It points to a squad who are quickly taking on board what their manager wants and expects from them, with Wednesday’s discipline, heart and work ethic under Monk having been striking facets of his first three games in charge.
Alongside some extensive work on the training ground, Monk has also been getting his message across by way of a number of meetings at the club’s Middlewood Road base.
Clarity in terms of team and individual roles has been provided by Monk, with no grey areas.
Another emphatic message being delivered is that squads and not teams are successful, with the Wednesday chief unequivocal in that belief.
Offering a player’s insight into the Monk approach, Owls custodian Cameron Dawson, who was handed goalkeeping duties with first-choice Keiren Westwood rested, said: “He has brought a bit of structure and got his ways across quite quickly.
“There are a lot of meetings and we are very clear in how we want to play and defend and attack. He has his philosophies and the lads have really taken it on board and are trying to learn his ways. It has been very positive in general. Everyone has been kept involved and has a role to play. It really is about the team and pulling in the same direction under this manager and, hopefully, that breeds results.
“The boys came in and we did not necessarily have an overly weakened team. We have had a lot of meetings and everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
“He has been great with all the lads and we know what we need to do as players and as a team really and how we go about things. For me, it is about working hard and seeing what it brings.”