I still think of Garry Monk’s appointment as a big coup for Leeds United. Hindsight’s wonderful but when Swansea City sacked him I was one of the people who thought they were making a very obvious mistake. The effect of the chopping and changing at Swansea hasn’t changed my mind.
I suppose it’s easy to talk him up now given the job he’s done at Leeds but I’m not really surprised by his performance; surprised by the league position, maybe, because the first port of call for a manager at Elland Road is simply to make it beyond Christmas, but essentially he’s a talented coach with a good managerial mind. And at the age of 38, he’s only going to get better.
In answer, then, to the question of why Leeds have taken so long to address his contract, I can only say ‘pass’. Is it short-sightedness on their part and a failure to get on with something they should have sorted a while ago?
Or will it actually work out quite well, negating the damp squib of missing out on the play-offs by announcing a new deal for Garry and sending everyone into the summer with a feeling of optimism?
In a strange way, an agreement now could have that effect, particularly if Leeds decide to have a proper go in the transfer market.
I say ‘a proper go’ because with the dust settled it’s only fair to reflect on the way in which Leeds have punched above their weight, relative to the financial strength of other teams around them. They’ve run out of steam in the past month and no mistake, but Garry as much as any other manager has maximised the potential of the resources at his disposal.
Should Leeds have been in the play-offs? With eight games to go, yes they should. But is this squad promotion material? With the greatest of respect, I don’t think it is.
That’s something for the club to ponder as they decide where to go next with Garry. Whenever a manager’s future is in doubt, you can split a squad into two camps: those who are desperate for him to stay and those who are a bit out of the picture and quite keen for him to go.
Needless to say, when things are going wrong the second camp tends to be bigger than the first but it’s safe to assume that anyone hoping to see Garry replaced will be in a small minority at Thorp Arch. Kyle Bartley said it all with his comments last weekend. The style of coaching and management has obviously suited the players and taken most of them to a good level. Given how often things go wrong for managers, you don’t want the promising periods to end.
Players are creatures of habit and they like a routine. They like to know what they’re doing in training and they like a bit of structure to the week: understanding the days when it’s going to be particularly tough and the days when you can, let’s say, relax or enjoy it a little bit more.
There’s the atmosphere too. Over time, you get very used to a particular manager’s style and their way of dealing with things.
A change of coach brings a change of tone and that always takes some adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a training ground needs a kick up a backside but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
What you’ve got at Leeds is a structure of management which is basically working well.
That’s a long-winded way of saying that Leeds are being presumptuous if they think another coach would get as much out of this group of players as Monk has.
It’s really not a guaranteed transition, not when you think that some members of his squad have played better this season than they have at any stage of their careers.
That has to be down to the coaching and in no small way down to Garry.
To be blunt, if Monk leaves Elland Road and goes to another Championship club with money and ambition, that decision is going to bite Leeds on the backside.
That’s how I see it and maybe the realisation is starting to dawn on the powers that be. As a manager you’re always auditioning in football – the old cliche of being as good as your last game – but Garry’s passed the test this season and passed it with flying colours.
Like most other people, I can only see one logical outcome.
n Upcoming Sky-televised Championship fixtures include:
Sunday: Brentford v Blackburn Rovers, Championship, Sky Sports 5 HD (11:55), kick-off 12.00. Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town, Championship, Sky Sports 3 HD (11:30), kick-off 12.00.