Garry Monk: 'Swansea City winning the Capital One Cup would be the best moment of my career'
IT is an image some Swansea City fans might not have dared imagine for fear of cursing their side, but even the most superstitious supporters must have dreamed of watching the Swans mount the mythic steps of Wembley to lift a trophy.
The notion of Swansea winning a major cup final would have been dismissed as pure fantasy just a few years ago but, on Sunday, they will be expected to be crowned Capital One Cup champions when they face a Bradford City side 71 places below them in the Football League.
If Swansea can avoid becoming the Bantams' latest top-flight scalp, what their fans will want to know is which one of the players will be given the envious task of grabbing the League Cup and thrusting it into the air.
Will it be Garry Monk, the club captain who has spent nine years with the Swans, or Ashley Williams, the imperious centre-back who has worn the armband most often over the past season and a half?
The answer, as Monk reveals with a smile, is both.
"Ash and I have already said that whatever happens, if I wasn't playing or somehow Ash wasn't playing, that if we do win then we will both lift the cup together," he says.
"It's a good thing. I haven't played as much as I have wanted this season and Ash has been captain throughout all of that so it's important he is there because he has had as much influence as I have had as captain.
"I know Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs both did it when Manchester United won the Champions League. I know Ash likes to think he is Rio so I'll be Giggsy then! I'll take that."
Monk has had to wait patiently for his opportunities this season, making only nine appearances due to the excellent form of Williams and Chico Flores.
Whenever the 33-year-old has featured, he has played with a cool authority and air of dependability.
And with Flores almost certain to miss Sunday's cup final because of injury, Monk could lead the Swans out at Wembley for a second time.
He did so when Swansea clinched promotion to the Premier League with their stirring 4-2 victory over Reading in the 2011 Championship play-off final, and Monk would love to taste another Wembley triumph.
"I'm always hopeful I'll play. It's what I play football for. I want to play games," he adds.
"It's a big occasion for both clubs. The journey both clubs have been on — not just in this competition but in recent history — means the game is vitally important. Both teams will want to win as much as each other.
"We will go there full of confidence and approach it in the way we know we can. We have to give everything we have and hopefully our quality will come out on top.
"The experience of the Reading game should help. Even though the team has changed quite a bit, a few of us in the squad have experienced the arena and what it is going to be like. It will be good going there knowing what to expect.
"But Bradford have beaten three Premier League teams on the way so there are definitely no mugs. They will be fighting and scrapping as much as we are."
Bradford will pose Swansea with belligerent opposition on Sunday, eager to topple another Premier League side having already beaten Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa.
Monk, meanwhile, will have an additional hurdle to clear in his quest for silverware — from one of his own team-mates.
With Flores set to be ruled out, it seems Monk is in direct competition with Kyle Bartley to start alongside Williams at the heart of Swansea defence.
Having navigated a career as vast and varied as his, however, such a challenge will not faze Monk.
The former Southampton centre-back joined the Swans when they were a fourth tier side in 2004, and he has played a prominent role in their startling, steepling rise to the Premier League.
Like Leon Britton and Alan Tate, Monk has a particularly acute appreciation of Swansea's current prosperity.
As a player whose formative years were a matter of surviving the battlegrounds of the lower divisions, Monk has relished every moment of the Swans' visits to the top flight's footballing palaces.
But even the victories over Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, the ecstasy of the play-off final triumph and other promotions would be eclipsed by a Swansea win on Sunday.
"It would top off my career," Monk says. "It would be the icing on the cake for me because I've come from playing in the bottom league and then to have played in the Premier League with Swansea.
"We have done really well and hopefully we can finish in the top ten. That would be great for us.
"But a major cup win for us and for me personally would be the icing on the cake in my career.
"I've got the LDV medal, the Football League trophy, the Welsh Cup twice and the play-off final — as well as winning the Under-16 Pioneer League!
"None of them come anywhere near this. It would be the biggest medal for any of the players in our dressing room.
"This is what we are in football for — to win things. Hopefully we can win the cup.
"I want to win it more for the club than myself.
"When I look back ten years and see where the club was. To then have a major cup in the cabinet — so when people walk into reception and see it every day — would be the best thing that has ever happened to the club.
"I hope the stars are shining down on us come Sunday. We will give absolutely everything and we hope that is enough."