GARRY MONK vowed that Leeds United would match Norwich City’s desire tonight and said he was determined to honour a good crowd and the memory of Gary Sprake by guiding his team into the League Cup’s quarter-finals.
Leeds and Norwich will meet at Elland Road in an all-Championship fourth-round tie, breaking from a packed league schedule with the lure of reaching the last eight, and Monk insisted that any changes to his line-up would not compromise United’s chance of progression.
The Leeds head coach, who made sweeping alterations for all three of the club’s previous ties, plans to alter personnel again and said he would not be clear on the priorities of Norwich manager Alex Neil until City’s teamsheet arrives an hour before kick-off.
Norwich face an important league meeting with Brighton on Saturday while Leeds, who climbed to 10th in the table over the weekend, host recently-promoted Burton Albion.
Elland Road, however, is likely to see a crowd of 20,000 this evening after Leeds cut ticket prices in response to a turnout of fewer than 8,500 for their third-round win over Blackburn Rovers.
The club will pay tribute to Sprake, their former goalkeeper whose death at the age of 71 was announced last week, with a minute’s applause before kick-off.
Norwich are Monk’s tip for the Championship title and have already put themselves in the running for automatic promotion. Asked if Leeds were underdogs tonight, Monk said: “I think so - but we’re not looking at it like that.
“Norwich are a very good side and very experienced and it’ll be good for our young players to come up against that but it’s a game we’re determined to win, there’s no two ways about it. We’re as determined as Norwich will be and we’re in front of our own crowd. We’ll have a big crowd and that’s an incentive for us.
“I don’t think in this league you can prioritise anything. In the Premier League you maybe can because you’ve got more time to prepare and evaluate your squad. Here it’s game after game - assessing the wounded and assessing freshness. You’ve got two days maximum to focus on that and make decisions. We don’t prioritise anything.
“What’s important is having the whole squad ready to use. It’s never about 11 players. We’ve shown already that everyone will be counted on, everyone is needed and everyone has to be ready.”
Norwich came through a third-round trip to Everton last month despite Neil making 10 changes to his starting line-up at Goodison Park.
Monk refused to speculate on Neil’s intentions, saying: “We’ll know by their team but in the last round they made pretty much a whole change (of line-up), went to Everton and were fantastic. They have a very big squad and a lot of quality in it so maybe their changes don’t affect it as much as other teams’ would. But with all respect, we’re not worrying about Norwich. We’re worrying about ourselves.
“The way I work is that every single player in our squad understands what they have to do when they step into the team. Some will always play more minutes than others, that’s the same at every club in every single season, but whoever steps on the pitch is very clear about what they need to deliver and the standard they need to deliver it at. The squad knows that and we’ve proved it already in games where we’ve had changes.”
Sprake, who was an integral member of the revered Don Revie squad at Leeds, helped United claim a first major honour when the club won the League Cup in 1968. Following his death, he was described by Eddie Gray as “as good as almost any (goalkeeper) I’ve seen.”
“That’s added motivation,” Monk said. “It’s incredibly sad to lose anyone connected with the club but a legend as well. Our condolences go out to the family and another way to show respect is for us to put on a performance.”