Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday column: Garry Monk quietly going under the radar ahead of crucial Leeds United clash
Nothing of what Garry Monk has done at Sheffield Wednesday has been about him.
Maybe it deserves to be ahead of a weekend in which personal attention is inescapable.
The calm, measured tones of the recently-appointed Owls boss have been reflected in the steadiest of starts, one defeat in seven league games and 14 points.
It’s been unspectacular by its predictability based on Monk’s previous good record as a still young manager, not least at Leeds United.
There is a big part of this methodical operator that wants to break the shackles of a series of tightly-fought games that have seen his team edge into the Championship’s top six.
But you doubt Saturday’s Yorkshire derby will be the place for that as Monk’s former team head for Hillsborough, just a point ahead, in what promises to be another close game.
It’s a balance between him wanting to satisfy what he calls the “very obvious and clear need” to take control of games when on top and staying competitive in an open league evidently without an outstanding team.
Monk’s rationale: “I loved my time at the club (Leeds) and am very proud of the job I did there (two promotion attempts). But what I care about is these players here, to push them to improve. Picking up points helps with the confidence and belief.”
Whatever Wednesday lack in putting games to bed they make up for in collective resolve and effectiveness as a unit, which has not always been apparent with this group.
Most players have had an opportunity and, much as Monk has tweaked the system, his flooding of midfield seems unlikely to change against a possession-based Marcelo Bielsa side who are particularly strong in this area.
Moreover, the players who earned four points against Cardiff and Stoke, which for various reasons should have been six, have pretty well earned a place (Massimo Luongo excitingly so and hopefully the midweek matchwinner is fit to resume).
Two areas of intrigue, though. Who would Leeds least like to face? Arguably Fernando Forestieri, who looked sharp on his comeback from the bench against Stoke.
And what of goalkeeping understudy Cameron Dawson? He’s made crucial late saves in the last two games after Keiren Westwood, undisputed number one, felt an ankle problem in the warm-up at Cardiff. Interestingly, Monk mentioned the word “competition” regarding that position when we spoke midweek. “You have competition for places and that’s how it should be,” he said. “Cameron has been fantastic this week.”
Westwood’s scan has come back clear. You’d have to make him favourite to face Leeds if he’s declared fit but it’s important that Dawson is encouraged to believe he has a genuine claim.
However, going back to the top, personalities don’t really matter for a game of this magnitude - barring that, Monk is certainly putting his stamp on the job.