Leeds United: Chris Wood, pre-season and a continental recruitment plan among key issues for new boss

Leeds United's Hadi Sacko sees his shot saved by Shamrock Rovers' Michael Quinn during a pre-season tour of Ireland last summer.
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Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Leeds United's Hadi Sacko sees his shot saved by Shamrock Rovers' Michael Quinn during a pre-season tour of Ireland last summer. ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
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The speed of the summer is demonstrated by the fact that Leeds United are already a fortnight out from the publication of the 2017-18 fixtures. Pre-season starts in a month’s time, reminding the club that they have a short window in which to find a new manager.

Leeds are 11 days into their hunt for Garry Monk’s replacement after the 38-year-old’s sudden resignation began a process which new owner Andrea Radrizzani did not expect. Early links to Aitor Karanka - a free agent, a friend of Leeds’ director of football Victor Orta and a coach who won promotion from the Championship with Middlesbrough - were quickly dismissed by United and the club are yet to show their hand after compiling a shortlist of replacements for Monk.

Chris Wood celebrates his equaliser against 
Newcastle United. Holding on to him will be key this summer for Leeds United (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Chris Wood celebrates his equaliser against Newcastle United. Holding on to him will be key this summer for Leeds United (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Monk’s overnight departure was not a complete surprise. He had spoken in the closing stages of his year in charge of seeking assurances about Radrizzani’s intentions as owner and clarity about various matters at Elland Road.

Here are the main issues which will confront a new manager as and when Leeds unveil Monk’s successor:

Decisions on Monk’s backroom team

Convention says that a departing head coach takes his staff with him but Leeds have delayed decisions on the future of assistant Pep Clotet, first-team coach James Beattie and goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan. Clotet, who also worked as Monk’s No 2 at Swansea City, is understood to be keen to stay with United and Leeds think highly of his ability as a coach but despite the vacancy above him, the club are not giving serious consideration to the option of offering the Spaniard the chance to replace Monk as head coach.

United have already looked at potential friendlies and a new manager will not find pre-season planning completely cold but training will resume around the beginning of July and finalising a pre-season schedule is a major priority.

Phil Hay

His deal runs to the end of this month and the retention of Clotet will be dictated by Monk’s replacement. Beattie remains on board but might choose to follow Monk to another club and despite his influence on the form and finishing of Chris Wood, Leeds are likely to allow him to move on.

Flahavan, however, is seen as an extremely promising goalkeeping coach having impressed in the job at the first time of asking. The former Southend United keeper joined Monk’s staff last summer after opting to retire and Leeds might recommend that any incoming boss gives thought to leaving Flahavan in place.

Organising pre-season

The arrangement of last summer’s friendlies was a challenge for Leeds and complicated by the late timing of Monk’s appointment on June 2. Massimo Cellino was able to line up a home game against Italian club Atalanta but United found other meaningful fixtures harder to come by.

Pontus Jansson is another who Leeds hope to retain for next season.
(Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Pontus Jansson is another who Leeds hope to retain for next season. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Two matches in Dublin, where the League of Ireland season was in full flow, played out against predominantly second-string and youth-team players from Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers and Leeds staged games against Guiseley and Peterborough United in the space of less than 24 hours, sending different squads to both venues.

Whether that schedule was a factor in Leeds’ slow start to the Championship season is for Monk to know but it was not his intention to adopt a similar programme this summer and Austria was mentioned as a potential tour destination.

United have already looked at potential friendlies and a new manager will not find pre-season planning completely cold but training will resume around the beginning of July and finalising a pre-season schedule is a major priority.

Retaining Chris Wood and Pontus Jansson

Wood has two years left on his contract and Jansson will take up a three-year deal with Leeds on July 1. Both are effectively the club’s property but both are interesting clubs in the Premier League and United will need to address the length of Wood’s deal or risk the prospect of the 30-goal striker running it into its final 12 months next June.

Radrizzani has ruled out any chance of Leeds selling Wood, telling the YEP last month: “Can you find me another Chris Wood? That is your answer. Our priority is to keep our best players.”

United are also adamant that despite much talk about Jansson’s transfer from Torino, the move is watertight and will go ahead as planned. Radrizzani has already killed speculation about Ronaldo Vieira by handing the teenager a new four-year contract. United’s next manager would want to know that most of the spine of Monk’s squad will remain intact.

Transfers

Leeds are moving transparently towards a continental recruitment model after appointing Orta as their director of football. Reports in Spain say he will be joined at Leeds by Dani Salas, a former professional who made precious little impact as a defender with Sevilla and Eibar but has integrated himself into Sevilla’s respected recruitment team.

Salas focussed on scouting in Portugal and South America and has also been involved in Sevilla’s recent pursuit of Besiktas’ Oguzhan Ozyakup, the former Arsenal midfielder. United have one transfer in the bag already - the permanent signing of loanee Hadi Sacko from Sporting Lisbon - but new additions will wait until a head coach is on board.

Radrizzani laid out his plans for investing in players by saying: “It will be a rational approach. I’ve seen many cases of new owners coming in, injecting money quickly and without a plan or a project. They went bust pretty soon and in the Championship you see a lot of turnover of owners.

“That’s the last thing I wish for. I wish to give continuity here so I need to be stable and plan rational investment. That means investing in players at the right age to develop, not in an old player who comes here with no desire, big wages and in a few years we are bankrupt. We need to be under control.”

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