GARRY MONK may be reluctant to trade Sheffield Wednesday’s current position with that of Stoke City – but he is quick to acknowledge that tonight’s visitors are leading the way in one regard.
Longevity in the management game is a rare luxury these days, with patience in boardrooms known to snap far more easily than it used to do.
Owls chief Monk can speak from bitter experience after being sacked just before Christmas 2017 – a matter of hours after his Middlesbrough side moved to within three points of the Championship play-offs after a victory at the home of the club he now manages.
As with Boro, Stoke’s time back in the second-tier since vacating the Premier League has also been troublesome.
The tag of pre-season promotion favourites proved a millstone last season – just as it was for Boro in 2017-18 when chairman Steve Gibson’s declaration that his side ‘would smash the league’ following relegation in the previous campaign proved fateful for all the wrong reasons.
In that regard, the sight of the Stoke hierarchy sticking to their guns this season and refusing to bow to what most deemed to be the inevitable earlier this month and dispense with the services of Nathan Jones is viewed as a refreshing deviation from the norm for those in the football fraternity.
We understand that in the industry we are in it is an exception what he (Jones) is going through compared to a lot of other situations. but I cannot focus on him and his situation. That is not my priority.Sheffield Wednesday manager, Garry Monk
Just 18 days on from wearing a haunted look and resembling something akin to a broken man after his side’s loss to fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town, a pumped-up and defiant Jones was celebrating with home supporters after his side’s 2-0 weekend victory over Fulham.
It spoke volumes about the resolve prevalent among the Stoke hierarchy – and is the sort that all rival managers hanker for in an increasingly precarious industry.
While he may be pleased for Jones on a personal level, Monk is intent on ensuring that the green shoots of footballing recovery in the Potteries are nipped in the bud this evening at any rate.
Monk, whose side are 15 places and 12 points above second-from-bottom Stoke, said: “As colleagues, you do not want to see any manager suffering or being in difficult situations.
“I think a big testament to them is the amount of time and patience they have given to the manager and that is how it should be. They (boardrooms) should have that patience – that is how we feel as managers.
“But, of course, we understand that in the industry we are in it is an exception what he (Jones) is going through compared to a lot of other situations.
“But I cannot focus on him and his situation. That is not my priority.
“My priority is to focus on us and get ready for the game.
“Everyone goes through their own situations and you sympathise when other managers go through tough times, but the main thing is to focus on ourselves.
“You have seen it many times in the Championship where any team on any given day can beat anyone. Like any Championship game, we have to be ready, focused and try and impose ourselves.
“We have to be on the front foot.”
A late leveller from Cardiff City substitute Lee Tomlin ensures that Wednesday head into tonight’s game outside of the play-offs instead of firmly ensconced in the top six following a 1-1 draw on Friday evening.
It was an occasion when the visitors were worthy of all three points and showed further evidence of the organisation and aptitude they have showcased in the encouraging early stages of the Monk era.
The hosts’ leveller may have been a frustrating moment for Monk, but he did respect, at least, Cardiff’s obstinate refusal to surrender their unbeaten home league record this term.
So far in 2019, just two sides in Aston Villa and QPR – twice – have taken away three points from Hillsborough, which has not been overly benevolent for visiting sides of late.
It is a situation that Monk is keen to maintain.
Monk, whose side welcome former club Leeds United in a mouth-watering Yorkshire derby on Saturday, added: “We would like to back up our last win at home with another win.
“They are all difficult games, but if we play like we did against Cardiff and in most games, then we are confident we have the belief to win any game.
“We need to try and make our home a fortress, like Cardiff have done.
“We were very unlucky not to be the first team to beat them at home this season.
“Our effort, spirit, commitment and some of our quality at times against Cardiff was very, very good.
“We need to carry that forward now and that is the only focus for us.”
Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday DLWLWD; Stoke DDLLWW.
Referee: A Madley (West Yorkshire).
Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Stoke 2, September 15, 2018; Championship.