Notes to himself and a bore draw at Walsall: Garry Monk on a year at Sheffield Wednesday

September 6 2019. A simpler time.

Sunday, 6th September 2020, 12:00 pm

Covid-19 merely sounded like a rejected Star Wars character, lockdown was something you did down the boozer after hours and going to the Co-op with a mask over your face would likely have seen you arrested.

Oh, and Sheffield Wednesday had the luxury of five strikers.

One year to the day on from Garry Monk’s appointment as Sheffield Wednesday manager, the Owls woke up with their name in the hat for the second round of the Carabao Cup after a penalty shootout win over League Two Walsall.

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Owls keeper Cameron Dawson gets congratulated by Garry Monk - Pic Steve Ellis

Let’s wrestle with it early, it wasn’t quite the rousing curtain-raising spectacle to the club’s riotous fightback against a substantial points deduction that some had hoped for. Wednesday took a long time to get going and in the absence of a true goal threat up top produced little in the way of attacking vigour against ultimately inferior opposition.

Monk warned during the week that compared to Walsall they were undercooked and for a long while they looked it – a little slower, a little sloppier, a little less drilled – although in the end, after the introduction of Matt Penney in particular, they had the best of a game better shelved in the memory banks of all involved.

Speaking to the media afterwards the Owls boss focused on the positives, and so he might. And whilst, as said, it wasn’t the inspirational start some may have hoped for, only the harshest of critics would read too far into what was only the side’s second 90-minute outing since their return to training.

Fisayo Dele-Bashiru showed large periods of the quality Monk and Wednesday will hope to see much more of in the coming weeks, months and hopefully years.

The fact that Penney was handed a deserved man of the match for just half an hour’s work tells it’s own tale, but an exciting cameo it was, introducing an attacking threat largely absent elsewhere.

Cameron Dawson kept a clean sheet and made a steady save in the shootout before Izzy Brown capped off a solid debut by stroking home the decisive spot kick. Oh, and by the way, Sheffield Wednesday won. They desperately, desperately need a number nine, but the positives are there.

Anyway, enough of that. This piece requires around 850 words and to stay with that 0-0 draw at the Banks’s Stadium for the duration would be something of a stretch. The Owls’ next task is to recover, sharpen up a touch and head off to Wales for the sterner test of Cardiff next week. That, by the way, is a Cardiff side that lost 3-0 to Northampton yesterday.

Let’s talk a year with Garry.

The tale is by now well-known. For the opening weeks of his reign, the strains of ‘Garry Monk’s Barmy Army’ were heard bouncing from the Wednesday terraces several times a weekend. A unbeaten home run of eight, third at Christmas, internal meltdown, transition talk, global pandemic, 16th at the finishing line.

Anything that could have happened that season did. At half-time in the Owls’ final match of the season the joke was made that an asteroid was scheduled hurtling towards S6 to cap it all off. Oh we have a laugh.

But there’s a fresh feeling to this season, one that should not be dulled by a glorified training match in the Midlands. If there were any major concerns in the dugout, a relaxed Monk didn’t show it.

There’s a renewed confidence and openness to him this season, traits that should serve him well as he goes about trying to fulfil the promise those opening weeks and months showed.

“The note to myself is to do better,” he said when reminded by The Star of his landmark in the Hillsborough hotseat.

“There are a lot of things that contributed to last season that were a little bit out of my control, but there are no excuses. You’re the manager of this football club and the manager of this team, everyone’s opinion is decided on the result, not the work so much that goes on behind the scenes.

“You can be doing great work behind the scenes but results are what counts, I know that.

“So that note to myself is to do better. To try to go the right way about it, trying to implement that and go about it in a positive manner. That’s what we want to show this season, we’ve started that work and I’m confident and very hopeful that will come out in the games we’re going to play.”

Alongside Cardiff, in terms of Wednesday’s Championship rivals, QPR, Birmingham, Huddersfield, Swansea and Rotherham all got knocked out f the Carabao Cup by teams one or two divisions below them this weekend. Derby only beat League Two new boys Barrow on penalties.

Where tier-two teams are coming off a manic season conclusion and a forcefully condensed pre-season, those beneath them played their first match in nearly 200 days yesterday having enjoyed a full and proper pre-season, there’s no wonder Wednesday and others looked off the pace in moments.

That’s not to say there isn’t work to be done on the training ground between now and next weekend – and a lot more work to be done in the recruitment offices between now and, well, as soon as possible. In case it hasn’t been mentioned, Sheffield Wednesday require a goal-scoring number nine.

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