LEEDS United head coach Garry Monk has hailed the vital experience of new signing Pablo Hernandez whom he says can make his young squad’s “apprehension” become a thing of the past.
Former Valencia and Swansea City playmaker Hernandez made his Whites debut in Wednesday night’s first-round EFL Cup-tie at Fleetwood Town in which United were heading for an early exit after Aaron Holloway’s 13th-minute opener.
But Leeds eventually rallied to progress on penalties and Monk believes the know-how of 31-year-old Hernandez was crucial in helping his side’s young players begin to fulfil their potential, especially when dominating in the second half.
United will now seek to pick up their first victory of the new Championship season at home to Birmingham City on Saturday, six days after a hugely disappointing 3-0 loss at QPR in which Monk said his young players were “apprehensive” in his first game in charge.
With former Spanish international Hernandez in the side, Monk is quietly confident that Whites’ apprehension will soon be forgotten.
Speaking at Thursday morning’s pre-Birmingham City press conference at Thorp Arch, Monk reasoned: “I said after the QPR game that what I feared this team suffered from is a little bit of apprehension from playing, a little bit of belief in themselves to play.
“It’s quite natural with young players at a very big club on a big stage for them, so early on in their careers, to consistently perform at a high level.
“So what we needed to do is add a little bit of experience in the squad, people that have been at that level or higher levels and have the experience of not having a fear of playing and putting their way of playing on to the pitch.
“Pablo is a prime example of that on Wednesday night.
“He will benefit from that but, more importantly for the young players, is that the young players will have looked at that.
“I think he helped the young players perform as well on Wednesday night, especially through a difficult beginning in going a goal behind in difficult conditions.
“I think that he showed the way of what we are trying to do here and the young players will take great confidence from that as well because I think he dragged them through.
“In the end, especially going into the second half, you started to see those young players grow in the game and I think that was partly because of the influence of having Pablo on the pitch with them.”
Hernandez came through 120 minutes of football unscathed on Wednesday and Monk says the creative midfielder will be fully recovered in time for Saturday’s home clash with Birmingham.
Centre-back Liam Cooper is also fine despite having been substituted at half-time on Wednesday as he continues his comeback from a calf injury.
Right back Gaetano Berardi, though, is awaiting the results of a scan today after suffering a fresh leg injury at QPR and he will almost certainly miss this weekend.