Garry Monk's Swansea City pilgrimage from League Two

By Rob WestallBBC Sport Wales
Swansea manager Garry Monk
Swansea City won five of their 14 Premier League matches under Garry Monk in 2013-14

Just over a decade since making his playing debut for Swansea City, manager Garry Monk is preparing to lead out the club at Old Trafford for their opening Premier League match of the season against Manchester United on Saturday.

The Welsh club and the 35-year-old have come a long way since that opening day 2-0 League Two defeat against Northampton Town, at the start of the 2004-05 season, at their former Vetch Field home.

Monk went on to captain the Swans as they rose up the leagues to claim a place in the top flight in 2011.

In 2013 he lifted the League Cup with team-mate Ashley Williams, as the Swans won their first major domestic trophy.

Monk was appointed manager on a full-time basis in April, having taken over the reins temporarily after Michael Laudrup was sacked in February.

He eventually led the Swans to a 12th-placed finish and Premier League safety following a battle against relegation.

From player to manager

Monk, who appears on Sport Wales TV on Friday, says of his move from player to manager: "The players have been good, very understanding of the situation."

Swansea City knocked Manchester United out of the 2014 FA Cup at Old Trafford
Swansea City knocked Manchester United out of the 2014 FA Cup at Old Trafford

"When you change to being an interim manager, players will fight for you because of the character [you are], but in terms of fighting for the right to be in the team and still be at the club, it wasn't really my decision.

He said now that he is full-time, the players "react differently, look at you differently", adding: "Albeit I'll still be myself and they understand that, but the fact is I'm now the manager and that's the way it will be."

Spanish exodus

In January, when Monk was still a player, police were called to the club's training ground following reports of a confrontation between him and Spanish defender Chico Flores.

They issued a statement denying there was a rift in the squad.

In April it was revealed that the build up to their battling 10-man 1-0 home loss against title-chasing Chelsea had been disrupted by a "bust-up" between "certain players" during a training session.

Chico Flores will play under former Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup in Qatar
Chico Flores will play under former Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup in Qatar

During his first pre-season in charge, Monk has seen the exit of most of the club's Spanish players.

Flores has been sold to Qatari club Lekhwiya SC with winger Pablo Hernandez also moving to Qatar to Al-Arabi.

Striker Alejandro Pozuelo has signed for Rayo Vallecano and forward Michu has joined Italian club Napoli on a season-long loan.

Fellow Spaniard Jose Canas could also be on his way out.

Monk denied he was trying to break up a Spanish clique at the club and said he "got on very well" with Michu, Flores and Hernandez.

He said the trio wanted to "move onto other things and try new challenges".

"For me I don't care what nationality you are," said Monk.

"All I care about is the football and what you do as a footballer.

"I want the players that I feel are best for me to take the club forward."

Swansea's first six Premier League matches
Sat, 16 August: Manchester United (away)
Sat, 23 August: Burnley (home)
Sat, 30 August: West Bromwich Albion (home)
Sat, 13 September: Chelsea (away)
Sat, 20 September: Southampton (home)
Sat, 27 September: Sunderland (away)

Among the players Monk has brought into the Liberty Stadium are former Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis, Ecuador winger Jefferson Montero, forward Marvin Emnes and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski from Arsenal.

Midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson has also joined the club from Tottenham in a swap deal for Wales international defender Ben Davies.

Napoli's Argentina defender Federico Fernandez is also set to undergo a medical at Swansea after both clubs agreed a fee for the World Cup runner-up.

Monk says he wants to sign more players before the transfer window closes at 23:00 BST on Monday, 1 September.

Monk's and Swansea City's habits

The jury is out on whether Monk will succeed or fail in his first full season in charge in his first managerial job.

But the Swansea board have a good track record when it comes to appointing managers.

Everton boss Roberto Martinez was given the opportunity to cut his teeth at the Swans leading them to promotion from League One to the Championship.

Liverpool's Brendan Rogers was also relatively unknown when he demonstrated some of his potential by steering them into the Premier League.

Monk, who was captain under Martinez and Rogers before replacing the sacked Laudrup as manager, wants to build on the foundations laid at the club.

Garry Monk
Garry Monk wore the captain's armband for Swansea for the first time in the 2004-05 season

"I believe in myself. I've always believed in myself and the way I go about things," said Monk.

"I have a clear plan of what I want to do and OK that can adjust in certain aspects through the journey... but I think the players understand that."

Monk is well aware of the pressure he is under and that the spotlight will fall on him if the Swans get off to a bad start.

"Nobody puts me under pressure more than myself," said Monk.

"I can deal with myself a little better so I'm more relaxed about it, but obviously I realise how important it is for me this season, and the team and the club... that we do well."

The former Southampton and Barnsley defender's philosophy is: "We have to be Swansea City. We have to be what we've been in the past but better."

"Each season it gets tougher and tougher and the Premier League gets harder and harder.

"Everyone's fighting that little bit harder because of the rewards that can come with this league.

"We have to make sure we keep our identity, which is something I've preached massively since I've come back in this pre-season.

"The principles are that we always have to be what we are, which is a possession, passing team, trying to be attacking and entertaining, but obviously trying to get the right results."

Garry Monk talks to Sport Wales TV, Friday, 22:00 BST, BBC Two Wales