Andy Ritchie: Monk plus stability brought success to Leeds United in 2016/17

Leeds United 2016/17 in numbers.
Leeds United 2016/17 in numbers.
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In order to judge Leeds United’s season fairly you really need to think back to the things we were asking for last summer. Did any of us demand promotion? Not really. Personally I wanted a steady year where progress was made and a manager got the chance to stay in his job. In the end, that’s how it turned out.

Football being football, expectation starts to take over when a season goes well and I completely understand the sense of frustration after the play-offs went begging. Some fans will be unforgiving about that and in fairness to them we’re talking now about a 14th straight year outside the Premier League but I reckon most will be able to tell themselves that this was the sort of season Leeds United needed.

Garry Monk.

Garry Monk.

A lot of us spent previous seasons banging on about stability, the importance of continuity with the manager or head coach and the benefit Leeds would feel if the club was run in a more orderly fashion. The past 12 months have shown that view to be totally correct.

Leeds have often been seen as a basket-case but in some respects they’ve brought the reputation on themselves.

They made decisions which opened them up to ridicule but for as long as Garry Monk’s been in charge they’ve been acting like a sensible club. It goes without saying that more progress is necessary because deep down we all know the current squad were probably punching above their weight by sitting in the play-off zone but it’s no bad thing to have the basis of good, solid organisation.

Keeping that intact depends first and foremost on keeping Garry in charge and I’m yet to hear a persuasive argument for letting him go. I can’t say I’ve met anyone who thinks a new manager is needed. Sometimes you want a coach to stay on for stability’s sake but with Garry, he’s genuinely done a top job. What else is there to say?

Chris Wood.

Chris Wood.

He’ll regret the fact that the play-offs were a step too far, especially because his team were close enough to touch them, but he’ll be happy with a lot of the work he’s done.

When it comes to talks with the club about a new contract, he doesn’t really have to sell himself because his performance in the job speaks volumes.

From experience, his future is going to depend on whether his ideas and the club’s ideas match up in the way he wants. Don’t assume that the club hold all the cards.

In the end, the likelihood is that the pressure got to his players and when that pressure started to have an effect, Garry lacked the depth or quality of squad to change his tactics or the mindset.

Chalie Taylor

Chalie Taylor

I know how it feels to be chasing the play-offs and unless you get an early run on the rest of the division, there’s always that moment when you feel like everything’s starting wobble.

I was manager at Barnsley when the club were promoted through the League One play-offs in 2006. We needed a win at Walsall on the last day to be sure of finishing top six and Walsall were bottom of the division – a foregone conclusion in the minds of some.

We battered Walsall in the first half and came in at half-time 1-0 up. It should have been about five. Then, at the start of the second half, Walsall began playing us off the park and eventually equalised.

Looking back now I can only put it down to pressure. There was no other explanation. The players knew what was at stake and started to think about the play-offs slipping away.

As it turned out, we got a late penalty which Daniel Nardiello stuck away – and the funny thing about that squad was that penalties were the thing we never worried about.

I had six or seven players in the team who I knew wouldn’t miss and when we wound up in a shoot-out against Swansea in the play-off final, I turned to my assistant, Rick Holden, and said ‘we’ll win this now’. And we did.

I guess that’s the point. In the crucial moments when I needed someone to deliver, someone always stepped up. That’s probably the one thing Garry lacked when it came to the crunch.

It’s not to say that there aren’t good players in his squad but that extra level, that bit of class when everything’s at stake, wasn’t there. After the draw with Norwich he intimated that himself.

I still wonder as well how much of an impact Pontus Jansson’s yellow cards had.

He was on the verge of a three-match ban all the way through April and there’s no doubt in my mind that the defending became more anxious and tentative in that period. Again, it’s a lesson to learn and something to take from this season.

But overall I’d be picking the positives out of it. Address the weaknesses but build on the strengths, of which I think there are many.

Sometimes these campaigns are a flash-in-the-pan but in Garry’s position I’d be pretty happy with the general framework at the club.

What he needs now is free rein to dictate what happens this summer and a decent budget to pursue some meaningful transfer targets.

Do that and I think it’s inevitable that Leeds will be in the running next season.

The bonus this time round is that the club don’t need to start from scratch.

When was the last time we were able to say that?

*******

You can mitigate Charlie Taylor’s behaviour as much as you like but what happened at Wigan last weekend was very wrong.

He’s a silly boy as far as I’m concerned and the whole thing came as a shock. I like Charlie and I rate him. I thought he’d be better than that. Whoever was guiding him or whatever advice he took, in my opinion he should have been big enough to know his own mind and play.

I don’t doubt for a minute that he’ll get a decent move from Leeds United or that he’ll end up in the Premier League and I expect him to go onto good things. But there’s a stigma attached to anyone who refuses to play for a club for no other reason than their own personal interests. That stigma is bigger again when the club you’re refusing to play for is as big as Leeds.

If I was a manager, it would put a black mark against his name. Honestly it would.

There’s no denying his ability or the fact that he’s got a good left foot – a bit of a rarity in football – but what he did on Sunday puts that grain of doubt in your mind. It comes down to attitude and professionalism and those are every bit as important as talent. Ability is only part of a player’s make-up.

In the long term I do think he’ll regret this. Not because it’ll damage his career – realistically it probably won’t – but because it will always be there whenever anyone talks about Charlie and his time at Leeds.

It shouldn’t have been how he was remembered.

Leeds United's players training at the Jenbach Stadium in Austria. New signing Matthew Pennington joins his new team mates.

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