Swansea captain Garry Monk: ‘We love Brendan Rodgers to death... but life goes on’

Swansea stalwart Garry Monk tells Ian Herbert how much he owes to his old manager, who returns to the Liberty Stadium with Liverpool tomorrow – but also reveals he is not looking forward to facing Luis Suarez

He was the soul of the place; into the training ground by 9am, mapping out sessions second-by-second, and tuned into his players like few other managers could be – their problems, their interests, their lives.

It is why those players Brendan Rodgers left behind will feel a little sense of loss all over again, when he returns to Swansea with Liverpool.

“He was so clever. It wasn’t just about football,” says the club’s captain, Garry Monk, attempting to crystalise what  allowed Rodgers to achieve so much with so little in the city. “He will know how to talk to someone. He will know what you are into, outside of football – whether it’s golf, movies, cars or something like that. And he will tap into that. Not in a devious way.  In a genuinely interested way, knowing it is going to get the best out of you and that you are going to think ‘oh he knows about this’. When you’ve got that sort of understanding with someone you want to do your best for someone like that.”

There was the occasional Rodgers stare, as well. “One where you kind of know ‘right he’s serious now’. It goes on for a bit longer and you think ‘oh s**t!’” But Rodgers is also the one to whom Monk owes his small but significant place in football lore, as the only player to have captained a side in all four divisions in the Premier League era.

The little band of brothers who have taken that Swansea journey from Tuesday nights at Mansfield and Rochdale was reduced to only Monk and Leon Britton, following Alan Tate’s departure to Leeds United this week. Sentiment played an equally little part when Michael Laudrup arrived, sized up the 33-year-old club captain and told him during the club’s pre-season tour of the United States this summer that no one would stand in his way if he wanted to go.

“It wasn’t as harsh as it sounds, not ‘oh you can go if you like, that’s it. I don’t care about you,’” Monk says, from the modest surrounds of the health and fitness club which doubles as Swansea’s training base, pitching players into conversation with the public in the showers. But after all that had gone before for Monk, it was a substantive blow. This is the man known in these parts for “the £90m block” –his fabled, hugely decisive goalline clearance from Reading’s Noel Hunt in the triumphant 2011 Championship play-off final. This July he had all but packed up his bags and gone – desperate to play some football and ready to take up Bristol City’s offer to do so. That was before a back spasm, sustained on the way back from the United States. He told City he would be fit in two weeks if they could wait. They couldn’t. “And I thought to myself ‘you know what, I’m just going to get my head down and work hard and hope for an opportunity’,” he relates. It came – when Laudrup’s £2m Spanish defensive acquisition Chico was injured in last month’s League Cup game at Anfield. Monk has more than seized his chance in a three-game  undefeated run since.

Rejection was not something entirely new. In some respects it has marked out a 17-year career which plunged Monk into the England Under-17 set-up in the early days and brought him up against Ryan Giggs, Dwight Yorke, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp after his big move to Southampton. (He is also the only individual to have played for two teams on their last league fixtures at a stadium – The Dell and Swansea’s Vetch Field.) The educative though ultimately unhappy experience at Southampton – where he was loaned out five times in six years before finally making a break for Barnsley – included the afternoon at Anfield which remains seared across his soul: the 7-1 defeat when Robbie Fowler ran amok in January 1999. “I was 19. We didn’t have a great game,” he says. “It’s a memory that’s always stuck with me from that point onward. Before every game I promise myself that I will never let myself go through that again. It’s a little thing I do. Before every game.”

Even when he found succour and security in professional football’s bottom flight, signing for Kenny Jackett at the Vetch Field when the Barnsley move didn’t work out, Monk kept being tracked by the doubters. The club’s rise was rapid, built on the radiant, cultured, fearless football inculcated by Roberto Martinez, who made him captain. “But as you get a little bit older and you get promoted all the time and people are always saying ‘ah, can he take it to the next level?’,” he says. “They write you off a little bit. I had a serious knee injury when I was a bit younger, too. All of those things have always played on my mind and made me more determined. My mum, bless her, she reads websites and forums and stuff and then ends up saying, ‘I’ve written in and told them they shouldn’t say stuff like that.’ It’s sweet; she’s looking out for me but I tell her, ‘Look it’s the way of the world.’”

So here come Liverpool. The noise around tomorrow’s match has included the serialised autobiography in which Ashley Williams, Monk’s defensive partner, has said his piece about Luis Suarez – on the basis of Swansea’s goalless draw at Anfield a man “streets ahead of any player I’ve truly disliked since we’ve been in the Premier League… he dived more than any other player I’ve played against… so bad I was genuinely shocked”. It seems fairly obvious that Suarez was a nark that day and that Monk gave as good as he got on the pitch, in Williams’s defence. “I’m one who never says anything to an opposition player unless they come to me first,” he says. “I didn’t get it but obviously Ash did and if Ash gets involved I have to get involved. You stick up for your own players, don’t you? It doesn’t matter whether they’re right or wrong. I don’t want to get into it on Luis Suarez but he’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and he’s not particularly my cup of tea, but he’s a top, top player and that’s the side of it you have to worry about.”

So good, in fact, that in an unrelated part of this conversation Monk singles out Suarez as the most difficult opponent he has encountered in the Premier League. “You could just imagine him in a Chelsea or a Man City team where there were chances after chances and he would score a hatful of goals,” he says. “No disrespect to Liverpool but there he makes his own luck a bit more. It’s difficult [to deal with him] because he is always moving, always on the move, dropping deep, going wide. He is very clever about where he goes and very difficult to pick up unless you go man for man on him and even then he would be difficult.”

Swansea have their own ammunition. Laudrup’s subtle changes give the wide players licence to drift in and that has  improved Wayne Routledge, a far better player this season. Swansea are 10th in the table, better than anyone expected in the November after a summer of managerial upheaval, and will probably spend £5m on a striker in January. The message to Rodgers will be “life goes on”.

“We love him to death after what he had achieved,” Monk says. “He got us into the Premiership – tactically, physically, mentally he took us on to a different level than anything we had been on before. But after all we’ve been through with him, we don’t want him to have one over on us now.”

My other life: Golf

Mark Gower, Alan Tate and I have a bit of competition going. We are all members at the Gower Golf Club, which overlooks the Gower Peninsula – the coastline is one of the great things about having made a home down here in South Wales. When we play away from there we beat Mark quite easily but when we play there he always seems to do. Maybe it’s because the holes are a bit shorter but he has the voodoo on us! Other than that, it’s a busy time of life at home and I spend what time I can with my partner Lexy and daughter Remy.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup