THE late Graham Taylor was acknowledged at Elland Road by a minute’s applause on Friday night and his career should teach a manager to enjoy the job while the going is good.
Garry Monk learned that lesson at Swansea City where so much promise was lost so suddenly but Leeds United has been a reversal of his first role in management. Beleaguered in August and early September, Monk’s oozed satisfaction after Leeds played Derby County off the pitch on Friday.
United have not performed better at any stage under Monk or, on reflection, under several of the men who preceded him as head coach. In a league below the division where the 37-year-old coached Swansea, this could be seen as the peak of his career so far. He inherited a capable squad at Swansea, a squad who won the League Cup a season before his appointment. At Elland Road and in seven months he has fashioned a team from something close to scratch.
Leeds’ 1-0 win over Derby, a display befitting of a far heavier scoreline, was Leeds’ 10th victory in 13 league games. Monk’s squad are comfortably clear of seventh position, in greater control of a play-off place and close enough to the automatic promotion zone to keep Brighton and Newcastle on edge. As a notriously volatile job goes, Monk can rarely have felt more on top of his work.
“Management’s a very up-and-down business,” he said. “I’ve had some great times and some not so good times. It’s so much of a rollercoaster. But what I do is remain balanced and enjoy it.
“It’s what I’ve known my whole life, football, and I enjoy working with an honest group who want to improve and have a clear spirit. That’s how I felt as a player: that when you put a shirt on they want blood, sweat and tears. That’s what fans want. It’s what people pay to see. That’s number one.
“On top of that they want to see good football so those are my values. I try to impart that onto this group. You can see their personality coming out and of course you enjoy the job when you’re winning. That’s what it’s all about.”
Leeds’ form and Monk’s part in it is pushing the club to commit to him with a longer contract than the one-year rolling deal he currently holds. He and United have held no formal talks about an extension but the matter is expected to be addressed following the investment deal which saw Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani acquire 50 per cent of the club last week.
“I’m not focused on myself,” Monk said. “I’m focused on my team and my players. That’s out of my hands. All I care about is these players, improving them.”
Radrizzani met with Monk for dinner after arriving in England on Wednesday. He spoke with United’s head coach at Thorp Arch on Thursday, addressing his players before they completed their preparation for the game against Derby, and again at Elland Road on Saturday morning.
Monk was given a vote of confidence by Radrizzani on the day the Italian completed his purchase of shares from Massimo Cellino and a happy Radrizzani looked on from the East Stand during Friday’s one-sided defeat of Derby. “It was a beautiful evening,” Radrizzani said.
“I spoke to him and was impressed,” Monk said. “He’s a really smart guy and he seems really positive about everything.
“Everything’s very positive with the co-owners, the football, the crowd – everything that’s been missing here for a while. It’s going positive right now, everything’s good news for Leeds, and we have to keep it that way and stay on the right path.
“Let’s remind ourselves that we’ll have some ups and downs in this period to the end of the season. You can’t win every game and those moments will come. But the club from top to bottom, everyone is sticking together and I said at the start that you can only move forward if everyone is pushing in the same direction.”
Leeds’ win over Derby was earned without the suspended Pontus Jansson and without Hadi Sacko, Liam Cooper or Charlie Taylor, all of whom were injured. Monk’s defence contained three right-backs. Jansson will miss this weekend’s game at Barnsley too, completing a two-match ban, but there is a chance that Monk will have the other three players available at Oakwell.
The United boss still wants two new signings before the end of this month, a striker and a winger, and feels those additions would give his squad “the best chance” during the Championship run-in. Leeds have a long-standing interest in young forward Ashley Fletcher but are reliant on West Ham United allowing him to leave. The club recently approached Norwich City about loaning Spanish winger Sergi Canos but could lose out to Brentford if the London club go through with their plan to offer up to £3m for the 19-year-old.
“We definitely need two,” Monk said, “but we don’t need too much. We’ve had to make changes (against Derby) and put out a bit of a makeshift back four, and ideally you don’t want to face those situations too often. We’re just those one or two away from giving this group their best chance.
“But I just want them to enjoy it. At this moment it’s not about worrying about where you are in the league, what we’re going to do or everyone else talking about that. It’s about these guys improving all the time and enjoying their football because that transfers to the terraces. Every fan who’s with Leeds is enjoying what they’re seeing and that’s what you pay your money for. That’s what every manager and player should be delivering.”
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