FORMER Leeds United full-back Danny Mills expects Garry Monk to stay on as the club’s head coach “for another season at the very least”, claiming neither side will want to risk a parting of ways.
In an interview with the YEP, Mills said Leeds and Monk would be “hard pressed to find a better alternative” than their existing relationship as Monk awaited detailed talks about an extension to his contract.
Monk’s initial 12-month deal is close to expiry and Leeds are yet to confirm their intention to renew his contract amid a pending takeover of the club by co-owner Andrea Radrizzani.
Radrizzani, who bought a 50 per cent stake in Leeds in January, is finalising the purchase of all remaining shares from Massimo Cellino and aims to complete his buy-out before the end of this month but the process has been delayed by a series of hold-ups in the past week.
The departure of United chief executive Ben Mansford on Friday, however, was an indication that the buy-out is poised to proceed.
Mansford’s exit after 12 months as CEO is part of the transitional process and West Ham United managing director Angus Kinnear, a long-time associate of Radrizzani’s, is expected to take up a senior post at Elland Road in the coming days.
Monk remains in the dark about his future, despite taking Leeds to the verge of the Championship play-offs in his first year in charge, and discussions about his job are not due to take place until after Radrizzani’s takeover is finalised.
Monk and Radrizzani met at Thorp Arch for a brief conversation on May 6, 24 hours before Leeds’ last game of the season at Wigan Athletic.
Radrizzani provided Monk with details of his ownership plan and the pair are understood to have agreed that more extensive negotiations would be held once the Italian was in full control of the club.
The contract agreed with Monk by Cellino last June included an option allowing Leeds to extend his tenure by a further 12 months to the end of the 2017-18 season but United are under pressure to make a longer-term proposal following their seventh-placed finish in the Championship.
The YEP understands that Radrizzani favours tying Monk to a new three-year agreement but Monk has stated openly that he would only commit to remaining in charge if Leeds meet his expectations over budgets and recruitment. United, who have already appointed former Real Madrid strategist Ivan Bravo to their board, are in the process of recruiting a technical director to oversee the club’s football operations.
Mills, however, believes Monk will favour the option of a second season at Elland Road and questioned whether Radrizzani would chose to start his reign as outright owner by removing a popular head coach.
“I’d expect Garry to be here for another season at the very least,” Mills said. “I hear all the talk and yes, they’ll have things to sort out but this is a good fit for both parties and I think they know that.
“If the club had made the play-offs and won promotion this season then great but I actually think the ideal scenario is to go up next year. The club would be better prepared, you’d imagine they’d be more stable again and they’ve got the basis of a good season and a good young team to work with now.
“The crowds at Elland Road are up over 30,000 again and Garry’s got the fans on his side. Go to a new club and you’ve got to prove yourself again, no matter your reputation. Realistically, where else is he going to get all this? And which manager out there who Leeds can realistically bring in is going to be a better option? They’d both be hard pressed to find a better alternative.
“Middlesbrough have come down and they need a manager. They’d offer a bigger budget, there’s not much doubt about that, but are they a bigger club than Leeds? No they’re not. Garry’s a fantastic prospect and there aren’t many more attractive jobs in the Championship. I’ll be very surprised if he and (Radrizzani) go their separate ways.”
Mills, a former England international who made over 100 appearances for Leeds between 1999 and 2003, said the combination of a shallow squad and mounting pressure had been responsible for United’s dramatic slide out of the play-off positions in the final month of the season.
United held a top-six Championship place for four months and were 11 points better off than Fulham in early March but Monk’s side finished five behind the West London club after taking one win from their last eight matches.
Mills said: “Everything changes when you get down to the last 10 games or so. Suddenly they’re games you have to win and they feel like games you have to win. It makes a difference.
“If you take Rob Green and Pablo Hernandez out of the team, most of the other players are 26 or under. You’re not talking about vast experience and when confidence slips it’s harder for younger players to know how to deal with that or how to push themselves through a dip.
“That probably cost them in the end but on top of that, the squad was quite shallow. It wasn’t easy for Garry to rotate his team.
“I never looked at his bench and thought the players on there had the potential to really change a game, or not drastically. The best teams in the Championship have benches where the players are as good as what’s on the pitch, if not better.
“That’s the step Leeds need to take and it’ll take money to make that happen but I really do think they’ll challenge again next season.”
Mills pinpointed back-to-back defeats to Reading and Brentford in the first week of April as the moment when Leeds lost control of their season.
United finished March with an eight-point cushion over Fulham, who were seventh at the time, after a rousing win over Brighton at Elland Road but a 1-0 loss at the Madejski Stadium was followed by a 2-0 defeat to Brentford in London four days later, weakening Leeds’ position.
“Any sort of decent return from those two games would have put them within touching distance,” Mills said. “The win over Brighton was a massive result but you have to follow massive results up. The initiative was lost at Reading and Brentford and Leeds never really got it back.
“It’ll hurt the players because as much as they can be proud of the season they’ll know that they’ve let a play-off place go. They can’t pretend otherwise. But Leeds do actually have something to build on now and if promotion takes another year, they must just feel that it was worth it in the long run.”
Danny Mills took part in the Fiat Fullback Challenge.
For more information on the new Fiat Fullback Pick-up visit HERE