Garry Monk: Ambition drives on Sheffield Wednesday boss
Garry Monk's work as a bright young manager at Swansea City saw him touted as a contender for the England job.
Four years and four Championship clubs later, he is the latest in a long line of bosses tasked with ending Sheffield Wednesday's long exile from the Premier League.
Still only 40, Monk feels he is a wiser, better manager now than he was when he turned heads by leading Swansea to eighth in the top flight in 2014-15.
He went on to manage Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City, then faced allegations in the summer - alongside agent James Featherstone - over transfers during his time at all three clubs
It was claimed Monk wanted Featherstone to be involved in transfer deals, but he maintains that neither he nor his representative did anything wrong.
As a result, he says, his only concern is the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday, where he took charge in early September following Steve Bruce's move to Newcastle.
Monk's aim is to guide the Owls to the Premier League - where they last played 19 years ago - and in doing so get back to the top tier himself.
"It's everyone's ambition to manage at the highest level you can," Monk tells BBC Sport Wales ahead of Saturday's reunion with Swansea at Hillsborough.
"I have had a taste of that and had relative success at that stage with no experience. That ambition is always there - it burns inside you. That's why you do it.
"There would be nothing greater than to manage at that level with this club, but that's a long way away at the moment. We have a lot of work to do to try to achieve that, but at clubs like Sheffield Wednesday you have to have that ambition. There is no fearing it."
Monk's managerial career began in February 2014, when he stepped up from his role as club captain - initially on a temporary basis - following Michael Laudrup's Swansea exit.
He saved the Welsh club from relegation that spring, then masterminded their best Premier League finish a year later.
No English manager's team ended higher in the table in 2014-15, hence the media talk about Monk being a potential successor to then national boss Roy Hodgson.
Monk insists he does not long for more of that kind of recognition - but he does want further success.
"I am ambitious, I am driven and I am a fighter," he says.
"I don't need to feed an ego. I just want to do as well as I can. When you are in the Premier League, the attention is ten times what it is in the Championship.
"It's not that I crave that - I don't need it - but you want to do well. Of course you want to be spoken about in a good way because that means you are doing a good job.
"But the most important people are the ones I am working for and the players and staff I have around me.
"It's about me driving them, trying to get them to achieve their ambitions. If they can do that, you will be achieving yours."
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Sacked by Swansea after a poor run of results in December 2015, Monk impressed in one season at Leeds and, after failing to agree new contract at Elland Road, joined Middlesbrough in 2017.
Yet he was surprisingly axed after only six months in charge - and after a run of six wins in 10 games - and returned to football at Birmingham in March 2018.
He kept the Blues in the second tier, then enjoyed a positive 2018-19 campaign despite financial issues which seriously limited Birmingham's transfer work and led to a nine-point penalty.
Then came another unexpected dismissal, in June, before what Monk described at the time as "false and unsubstantiated accusations" surfaced.
Was it a difficult period? "Not really," Monk says, "because you know the truth and everyone that's important to you knows the truth.
"The truth will always come out in the end - which it will.
"I have been under obligations from the contractual side of it which mean I can't say too much.
"Everyone that knows me, everyone in football because it's a small family, knows what's what. You have to take some unfair stuff which is quite (difficult), especially for the family to read when they know it's not true, but you have to deal with it.
"Everyone knows what type of person I am. The key is to be a good person and keep your values at the forefront of what you do."
The reunion with Swansea will be Monk's 11th game in charge of Wednesday, who he played for on loan in 2002-03.
Beaten only twice so far under their new boss, the Owls are seventh in the Championship and are one of numerous potential promotion contenders.
"When you are at big clubs, your expectation will always be a fight to get back to the Premier League," Monk adds.
"We have a fantastic group and it's a big, big club - we all know the history of the club and the massive fan base.
"We are trying to bring that all together and whilst we try to build, we are trying to be competitive and get results."
Monk is pleased to see Swansea, a club he captained in all four divisions, in the mix at the top of the Championship table.
He points to the appointments of Trevor Birch (chairman) and Leon Britton (sporting director) as shrewd moves - along with the decision to make Steve Cooper head coach.
"Looking from the outside in, I think what they have done is pretty much what they needed," Monk says.
"Coops has done a fantastic job. With the start they have made, I am sure their expectation will be to be in amongst it at the end of the season."
Monk hopes Wednesday will be competing for a promotion place too - though he is not thinking only about the 2019-20 campaign.
The length of his contract has not been disclosed but, having managed five clubs in five years, he is keen to put down roots.
"Look at all the clubs who have been successful moving from the Championship to the Premier League over the years," Monk says.
"At 99 percent of them, managers have had time to build. That's the right way to do it. That's what I crave as a manager.
"I have enjoyed the last five or six years and got a load of experience in a short space of time. That's made me a much better manager.
"Hopefully Sheffield Wednesday is the place where I can have that longevity."