Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday column: Storm clouds gathering over S6 - but will Garry Monk be backed?
Change versus ensuring Championship status - with both desperately needed.
It’s the perfect storm. And, of course, it’s far from perfect.
Caught right in the eye of it is Sheffield Wednesday’s manager. Mainly because circumstances have overtaken him.
Garry Monk isn’t the real problem but he has the problem - after an indefensible run of one win in ten games that has put him under severe pressure.
He calls it a cycle that’s hard to break. Here’s another - a vicious one.
Good team slowly stagnates ... poor signings stockpiled on top ... three succeeding managers, and a recurring caretaker, wrestle with a stale squad ... the latest one condemns dressing room culture ... results collapse (partly confirming his point) ... cue calls for another managerial change ... and the return of outcast players (albeit good ones) dating back to the 2015-16 team ... go back to the top.
Conclusion (unavoidable): something in the Owls’ over-arching football structure has to change. Preferably before another sacking, to which the only alternative I foresee is an experienced outside firefighter, recruited temporarily forthwith.
Yet results are king and this weekend’s trip to Monk’s former club Birmingham, followed by Charlton at home on Tuesday, are huge games for him and the club.
Remove the threat of a dreaded EFL points deduction and Wednesday’s current mid-table placing would be a cause for alarm, but not panic.
It’s not that far adrift of what many feared. Recent judgements on this squad, led by Monk himself, are not new. They have been voiced repeatedly from this quarter and many others for a long time.
The addition to the cocktail, and the one making it so toxic, is the financial issue. Again, not of Monk’s making and let’s not forget he has not been blessed with an assistant of his choice.
While Wednesday’s recent form is inexcusable, the overall showing this season has been predictably middling.
That said, off-field anxiety allied to on-field incompetence is a potentially lethal cocktail for a manager, albeit one with whom I have much sympathy for his essentially correct desire to shake things up.
Monk has demonstrably made mistakes. Personally, I’d like to have seen more 4-4-2 with this group rather than repeated tactical variations.
But you can’t see a club in this situation attracting better. It happened in the case of Steve Bruce but look how long that lasted.
Monk would have been juggling anyway, between an outside play-off shot and reshaping the squad, and the EFL have added some balls he never saw coming.
Deciding to take on the “too comfortable” element of the squad and isolating certain players was a calculated gamble possibly timed too early.
But it delivered a message we all knew was coming and set a challenging level of expectation, not least for players heading out of contract.
This squad was already becoming stale by the time of Carlos Carvalhal’s ill-fated third season. Is it to have a third manager’s blood on its hands? To those pleading for the return of isolated old heroes, why not go the whole hog and re-sign Glenn Loovens, Gary Hooper, Ross Wallace et al?
It was the lack of gradual change that will force wholesale change this summer, whoever is in charge, and at considerable expense.
Any manager would have been stretched by this situation. And a long haul job - as it has been from day one - almost always necessitates things getting worse before they get better.
As they are. It is much to do with wider issues that Monk, for all the problems above and below him, needs results and fast.
But I hope for what I believe to be the morally right outcome - for the manager to be backed over the players.