It looks like Garry Monk will serve a touchline ban at Derby County on Saturday, his punishment for what went on at Bristol City last month. Call me old-fashioned but I’m a bit surprised to see the Football Association reacting in the way that it has. To me the events at Ashton Gate were something of nothing.
Obviously we don’t know what was said on the night – and it goes without saying that something was said because I doubt Monk was dismissed for nothing – but from my position in the stands it looked like no more than typical frustration at the end of a game which wasn’t going Leeds United’s way.
You couldn’t accuse Monk of running riot in his technical area and the sending off seemed very tame.
Given the performance of the referee – and let’s be fair, he was pretty poor – I think Monk had cause for complaint. I’d have been annoyed if I were him.
There’s no doubt that the FA’s ‘respect for referees’ campaign is important and cutting out the habit of players hassling officials is no bad thing but the problem with this is going to be consistency.
Isn’t that always the case? Perhaps Monk deserves this ban. Perhaps he talked out of turn. But you’ll see examples this season of managers who do worse but go unpunished. And ultimately, there has to be some allowance for the fact that passion sometimes boils over.
Will it make any difference to Saturday’s game at Derby? Yes and no. The players’ jobs don’t change but as a player you much prefer having your manager or head coach in the dug-out. Some bosses will watch parts of games from the stands, particularly the early stages, but the technical area is where you need to be when a match reaches the business end.
You can communicate better and, I’d imagine, you feel more in control of your team.
Pep Clotet will take charge in Monk’s absence and Clotet’s more than experienced enough to hold the fort.
There’s one major advantage here and it’s the fact that Leeds have had two weeks in the international break to get their tactics and plans nailed down. No matter where Monk is sitting on Saturday, the squad will be 100 per cent drilled.
They’ll know their jobs and they’ll understand the threat that Derby pose. Yes, Derby have had a bad start and they’re minus a manager at the moment. But there are good players at Pride Park and this will be a very hard game.
The issue for Clotet, as obvious as it sounds, is that he isn’t Monk. They know each other inside out and they’ve worked together for a good while now but no-one knows exactly what Clotet would do in any given situation; how he would react if Leeds go behind or how he is reading specific parts of the game.
In short, if Saturday goes to plan then Leeds will be fine because the strategy will be drummed into the players during the build-up. If it’s not broken then you don’t have to fix it. The challenge is going to come if things start going wrong – and Monk has no way of intervening. I really hope this doesn’t bite Leeds because the players and staff were quite superb last month. Considering the pressure they were under, they’ve shown some real bottle to recover and I feel like we’re well placed to kick on this month.
Momentum counts for so much in football and this team have definitely got it.
For that reason, it surprised me a bit that Monk didn’t make the manager-of-the-month nominations for September. I mean, it’s only a surprise to a point. Leeds don’t often figure in those awards and when managers do, they never win the trophy but I still thought that his performance in tough circumstances deserved some acknowledgement. Don’t forget that at the start of September people were talking about him getting the sack. I genuinely wondered if he was close. All of a sudden, with managers in the Championship dropping like flies, he looks pretty safe and secure.
What matters more than a monthly award is the fact that he’s looking like a good manager again. The players obviously feel it and you can tell that the fans are very much behind him.
Football’s fickle and it changes quickly so I doubt that Monk will be getting complacent but he seems in control and he comes across as a coach who knows what he’s doing. Confidence in a team comes from the top and Monk, to me, is showing more and more of it.
As for trophies, you’re better off winning one at the end of the season than winning one at the end of September.
That’s what counts and every one of the managers nominated ahead of Monk would agree. It’s easy to look good for a period of four or five weeks.
The real challenge is putting it together over eight or nine months. I’m very optimistic that Monk and his players are capable of keeping this form going.