Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City: Fire burning deeply for Garry Monk ahead of Blues reunion

Garry Monk and Pep Clotet.
Garry Monk and Pep Clotet.
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Garry Monk says his experiences at Birmingham City have added fuel to the fire as he looks to take Sheffield Wednesday into the Premier League.

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Tonight the Owls manager faces the club which sacked him by text message in the summer insisting he only wishes them well, and that a bruising experience has not left him bitter towards the fans or the club.

READ MORE - Garry Monk attacks ‘disloyal’ Pep Clotet ahead of clash with Birmingham City

It is a different story with Pep Clotet, Monk’s assistant at Swansea, Leeds United and Birmingham, before replacing him on a caretaker basis in the West Midlands, a title he still holds.

“In terms of the interim/caretaker/head coach, whatever he is, I don’t speak with him,” said Monk. “What’s most important to me when I’m assembling a staff is to give them an opportunity and show them complete trust, and you hope that they repay that trust with hard work and loyalty.

“Sadly not everyone has those values in their character. Some choose to pursue their own opportunities in the worst possible way.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to a lot of people within football circles who warned me about the type of character he is. That’s an error of judgement from myself and one I have to learn from and move on from.”

Monk admitted his time at St Andrew’s – where chief executive Xuandong Renwas criticised both his football and his use of agent James Featherstone in all transfers – hurt him, but put a positive spin on it.

“I’ve always been the type where it adds fuel to the fire,” he said.

“My over-riding feeling for that club is for that fanbase and those players who gave me a hell of a lot. There’s no shame in saying that. They gave me massive commitment, support and really good memories.

“There’s no bitterness from me towards the club in terms of the players and the fans. There are other situations which cut deep but that’s life. You live and you learn.

“You have to learn quickly and sometimes you have to learn in a harsh way.

“You have to get on with it and use it to fuel the fire. It’s just another log on the fire – maybe a few more logs on this one!

“My heart and soul is here and I’m working as hard as I can with my staff and my players trying to give this fanbase the success it deserves but it’s important not to shy away from the fact you’ve had good times at a club and Birmingham was definitely one of the highest ones in terms of how I felt about them.

“That will never leave me but when they become the opponent, they’ll be trying to win the three points as hard as I am.”

Monk goes into tonight’s game without a win in four matches after some costly late goals, but happy with performances. His is an experienced squad, and Monk believes they are keeping their recent run in perspective.

“You need to talk to the players and show them but it’s also their experience that helps them,” he said. “We all know if you were not performing and you were all over the place that’s a huge worry but we’re nowhere near that. The majority of it is exactly where I need us to be at this moment in time.

“It’s just those little bits – individual errors and taking our chances – which are two of the most important bits. If we get them more on our side, we’re in a position to beat anyone in this league.

“I think there’s a big over-emphasis on the last four games. I appreciate it’s a problem we need to get right, there’s no excuse, but we dispossess (West Brom centre-back Ahmed) Hegazi on the edge of his box 10 yards from goal and either we don’t punish him or they don’t get punished, yet we make one mistake and we get punished for it.

“We’ve made other mistakes in the games earlier or other teams have and we haven’t got punished or they haven’t. I don’t think it’s a psychological thing.”

Another issue undermining Wednesday has been their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.

Centre-forward Steven Fletcher scored his first goal in seven games in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, but Monk says the Scot also sees the bigger picture.

“The thing that helps players is performance but of course the result is the main factor that enhances it and makes it snowball,” he said.
“When you’re getting the majority of it right or whichever way you’re happy with it, confidence isn’t lost.

“If you can perform and score goals as a striker, that’s the cherry on the top.

“I haven’t seen any loss of confidence with Fletch, just frustration.

“The best teams, the best players turn frustration into determination. I know that stands us in good stead and things turn for you.”

Last six: Sheffield Wednesday DWDLDL, Birmingham City LWWLLD

Referee: T Robinson (West Sussex)

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Birmingham City 1, January 1, 2019, Championship