Day one brought a four-year contract for Ronaldo Vieira. Day two brought the resignation of Garry Monk. Leeds United have a new owner but volatility dies hard and Andrea Radrizzani’s third day in the job brings with it the pressure of sourcing a new head coach.
On the outside they will ask how it came to this; the most promising Leeds manager in six years walking out at the same time as the club were preparing to extend his contract but the positions of both camps left enough of a gap for Monk to fall through. He was honest in admitting towards the end of this season that his commitment to Leeds was conditional and dependent on Radrizzani’s intentions as owner. Radrizzani was just as insistent that he would activate a 12-month extension to Monk’s deal before signing off on the longer contract which Monk expected to receive.
“It’s fair to have time to know each other,” Radrizzani said on Wednesday, having met with Monk earlier that afternoon and previously at the start of the week. “If he has a different opinion then I’m also keen and flexible to listen.” Within hours Monk was tendering his resignation and pre-empting a plan by Radrizzani to invoke a short-term contract extension tomorrow. The 38-year-old left in the blink of an eye and with Leeds relinquishing any right to compensation.
In the end they were poles apart: Leeds describing themselves as “shocked, disappointed and deeply saddened” and stating that “at no time did Garry wish to discuss terms for a longer contract.” Radrizzani insisted on Twitter that he had been “keen to do three years”. Sources close to Monk said he was disappointed by the prospect of a 12-month renewal and had not been given enough assurance that a more substantial contract was coming. Monk said in a lengthy statement last night that “my intention was always to remain at Leeds United” but “unfortunately we have been unable to agree a suitable way for us to all move forward.”
Monk bucked the trend at Leeds by becoming the only one of seven managers or head coaches to avoid the sack from Massimo Cellino. He survived for two full days on Andrea Radrizzani’s watch as owner, though Monk is also the first Leeds coach since Dennis Wise to resign from his job.
Like Wise, he leaves behind a job unfinished after helping United to navigate their way into the reaches of the Championship which actually matter. Seventh place this season was the club’s best finish since 2011 and 75 points was their highest total for 11 years. His record of 23 wins from 55 games is tempered only by the fact that a record of one in his final eight games threw the play-offs away.
Radrizzani was less than impressed with the finish to the season, though not to the extent that replacing Monk became his intention. “I’m not that happy when I see that (the fans) are happy with the season,” he told the YEP on Wednesday. “The season at the end was not good. We didn’t achieve. Something didn’t work so we can’t be happy.” It contradicted the view of Monk, who saw his first year as head coach as “a success no matter what”, but they agreed on what should come next. Radrizzani wanted a “winning mentality”. Monk talked earlier this month about mounting a “a promotion campaign from the very start.” In that respect they were like-minded.
Where Monk goes next remains to be seen. He is admired and respected by Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson and Middlesbrough need a new manager. At 38 and as a free agent, with two credible jobs behind him, Leeds suspect that it will not be long before Monk takes up another post, most likely at another Championship club.
Leeds had scope to ensure compensation by refusing Monk’s resignation and extending his contract regardless, creating an impasse in the process, but May becomes June next week and Monk’s preparation a year ago was hampered by the late timing of his appointment on June 2. Radrizzani might be new to football club ownership but voices around him are telling him that he cannot afford many bottlenecks this summer.
The advantage for the Italian is that much of his management team is already in place. Angus Kinnear, West Ham United’s managing director, is about to arrive and Victor Orta - Middlesbrough’s head of recruitment until yesterday morning - is expected to become Leeds’ new technical director. Orta was one of Aitor Karanka’s men at The Riverside, brought in by the former Boro boss in December 2015, and Karanka’s immediate surge to the top of the betting for the managerial vacancy at Leeds was inevitable. Sources at Elland Road played down the link but Radrizzani’s model of recruitment and management is undeniably continental. The sudden nature of Monk’s resignation has left the future of his backroom team - assistant Pep Clotet, first-team coach James Beattie and goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan - unresolved for now.
At 38 and as a free agent, with two credible jobs behind him, Leeds suspect that it will not be long before Monk takes up another post,The YEP’s Phil Hay
In a statement published earlier today, Leeds tempered their obvious frustration by thanking Monk “for his contribution” at Elland Road. They have plenty to be grateful for in the context of this season. On a mid-table wage bill and a modest Championship budget his squad exceeded the sum of their parts and sat in the play-off positions for four months, albeit with certain shortcomings which persisted throughout. Average home crowds rose by 4,000 and season ticket sales for next season have already past the figure for the year behind, totalling more than 15,000. Monk’s reserved, understated character - disguising an affable and humorous personality - did not stop him tapping into United’s inherent ambition; something which was tied up and screaming to get out when he took over as head coach. Leeds’ sudden collapse in April sold a fine season down the river.
In the earliest days, when a sequence of poor results were threatening to drag Monk down, a few of us in the media asked him why it was that he had taken a job which so many in England classed as impossible. “Because,” he said, “you’ve got a tidal wave of bulls**t coming at you but there’s always that small chance that you’ll make it over the top of it. If you do make it over, you won’t get much better than being here.”
Monk breached the tide before Christmas, the one person who appeared to have made a change of head coach this summer unthinkable. A few rounds of talks with Radrizzani and the incumbent is gone. United’s new chairman believes he has viable alternatives and enough of the summer left to ensure that Monk’s resignation does not bring down his first season as owner. This was not an inevitable parting of ways but perhaps the seeds of dispute were always there. Radrizzani’s job is to protect the green shoots that Monk leaves behind.