• New head coach advocates strong work ethic with a smile
• He has to guide club to safety after Michael Laudrup's exit
It was a Sunday evening in August and a long day of intense learning was coming to an end as Garry Monk, one of the 24 candidates on the Uefa A licence course run by the Football Association of Wales, pulled up a chair to talk about the merits of coaching qualifications and the career he hoped to carve out in the game once his playing days were over.
Monk looked back over the best part of a decade spent at Swansea City, thinking about all the knowledge and experience he had accumulated.
There were the days of playing 4-4-2 under Kenny Jackett in the lower leagues, the repetitive but enjoyable passing drills that helped Roberto Martínez implement a philosophy that would become part of Swansea's culture and, last but by no means least, Brendan Rodgers's brilliant man-management and the harmony that created in the dressing room.
It was an education Monk felt compelled to put to good use by enrolling for the A licence in June, alongside the likes of Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell, as part of a long-standing ambition to get involved in coaching. "I've seen the British way of playing, the foreign influence and a more technical way of playing, the way players have adapted and how it's grown – and I just think, with that sort of experience, it's nice to try and give something back or implement it, hopefully at Swansea if I can do it in that capacity, or if it means going further afield, so be it. I just feel it would be a waste if I never did anything," Monk said at the time.
What Monk could never have imagined was that six months later he would be walking on to the pitch at Swansea's new training complex at Fairwood to set up his first session since taking over as the club's head coach. That was the situation Monk found himself in on Wednesday morning, after Huw Jenkins, the Swansea chairman, put the 34-year-old club captain in charge for "the foreseeable future" in the wake of Michael Laudrup's sacking on Tuesday night.
Monk, who has been coaching the club's academy players as part of his A licence, is Swansea through and through. The former Southampton trainee is highly regarded within the club as a person and a player – he has captained Swansea in all four divisions – and he will have the supporters right behind him.
Yet it still feels like a huge gamble on Jenkins's part to give a man who has never managed before the responsibility of pulling the club clear of relegation trouble, especially when his first game in charge is a south Wales derby at home against Cardiff City on Saturday night.
One of the big questions surrounds how easily Monk will be able to adapt to managing players that were previously his team-mates and with whom he was engaged in dressing room banter up until Tuesday afternoon. There is also the issue of how to handle Chico Flores, after Monk had a bust up with the defender on the training ground last month, as well as the potential difficulties of galvanising a squad in which there have been cliques. It is inevitable that some players, in particular a number of the Spaniards, will feel a natural allegiance towards Laudrup.
With all of that in mind it was no surprise that Monk stressed the importance of unity on his first day in charge. "We are all in this together – and I will make sure we stick together. That is what Swansea City has been all about for as long as I can remember," said Monk, who will work closely with Alan Curtis, the first-team coach under Laudrup.
One of the overriding themes that came through in that conversation with Monk in August was that he will always endeavour to be honest when dealing with players – something that he gives Rodgers great credit for during the Liverpool manager's two years in charge at Swansea before he left in the summer of 2012.
"Brendan has had the biggest effect on me personally," Monk said. "He treated all the boys with respect and he was genuine with you. I can't remember a time when he wasn't honest with me. His man-management is phenomenal. I think if you're honest with players, that extra one or two per cent you get from them can win you games. If Brendan had bad news to break to you, you wouldn't come out and sulk; you'd respect him. I can't hardly ever remember a player who wasn't playing sulking under him."
Another thing Monk feels strongly about is training and the importance of working players hard – with a purpose – but seeing smiles on their faces at the same time. The picture that has emerged from Laudrup's 18 months in charge suggests that was rarely the case. There was a feeling that the regime was too relaxed, training lacked intensity and that there was not enough tactical input in the lead up to matches.
Monk, in contrast, put down a marker on the training field from day one – a double session to start. "The bottom line is, whatever level you're working at, the players have to come in and enjoy what they're doing. But in your mind you have to be getting the right thing out of each session – and that's a fine balance," Monk said in August. "I've been in sessions where I've been thinking: 'This guy hasn't got a clue.' I've been in others where I've thought: 'Wow, that was good, I look forward to coming in the next day.'"
Just how long Monk will remain in charge is unclear. Jenkins is a forward-thinking man, which means that the chairman is constantly scanning the managerial landscape. Gus Poyet is highly rated, although the chances of prising him from Sunderland seem remote.
Other possible contenders for the job include Graeme Jones, Martínez's assistant at Everton, Óscar García, the Brighton manager, and Dennis Bergkamp. It would be intriguing, though, to see what happens if Monk turns Swansea's season around and they finish the campaign in style.