Leeds United: Monk has come back into management stronger and fresher

Garry Monk.   Pic: Jack Varley.
Garry Monk. Pic: Jack Varley.
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After being sacked by Swansea City in December, new Leeds United head coach Garry Monk used his enforced break to gain even more experience in the art of football management. Lee Sobot reports.

tHE managerial record books already indicate that Leeds United have landed a highly talented new head coach.

It’s in black and white that Garry Monk led Swansea City to their highest ever Premier Division finish with doubles over Manchester United and Arsenal to boot.

Monk’s stats on the managerial record books, though, end abruptly on December 9, 2015 – after an extremely unforeseen run of one win in 11 led him to be sacked.

Those scars have healed he says – “you understand that you have to move on very quickly” reasons the former Swans boss, who vowed to make the most of his enforced break from management.

After watching a plethora of games and spending time with Europa League winners Seville, Monk believes he now arrives at Elland Road an even better manager than the statistics show.

Monk, 37, will wake up to his second full day as head coach of Leeds United today after a whirlwind week that saw former Whites head coach Steve Evans axed on Tuesday evening.

Monk was appointed less than 48 hours later with chairman Massimo Cellino pulling off something of a coup by attracting a manager who made such waves at Swansea to be discussed as a future England boss.

One year on, Monk will find himself lining up in the country’s second tier with Leeds after a sour ending to his Swansea experience that was difficult to visualise when the club sealed an eighth-placed finish in May 2015.

The young manager has not been short of offers since being sacked last December but the former centre-back has nevertheless had just short of six months ‘out of the game.’

And Leeds United’s new employee has done anything but stand still in the half a year that followed his Swansea exit – which the new Whites boss hopes is all the better for both himself as a head coach and ultimately for Leeds as a whole.

“I have tried to use it positively,” said Monk, asked what he had done with his last six months.

“I have just been out to Seville who have just won the Europa League again for the third time so I spoke to them and the set up and the manager and I watched them.

“I spoke to other managers that I know very well and I’ve gone and watched a few different sports as well and how they work.

“Really it’s just about improving your knowledge all the time – that’s what you have to do as a young manager.

“I have tried to use it in a way where you probably don’t get the chance when you are actually doing a job – to actually visit other managers and see how they work and bounce ideas off people.

“I’ve watched a lot of games, analysed a lot of games and analysed myself, the way of working and really just to try and improve myself in that period. I’ve also spent time with the family which has been great – I have a young family at home so I had good times with them – but I think the Mrs is ready to kick me out of the house now.” A house-hunt will likely be next on the agenda with Monk and his young family set to relocate up north.

Swansea’s choice to part with Monk’s services looks all set to be United’s gain and the new Whites head coach insists the scars from his sacking have quickly healed.

Monk explained: “This is a game and I think if you have been in the game long enough you understand that you have to move on very quickly, learn from the experiences, learn from everything and make sure you use it to your advantage.

“That is the key to it, that’s the key to anyone in any line of business but especially in football.

“It’s about the future now, it’s about Leeds United and making sure we put a winning formula together.”

Reflecting on his 22 months in charge of Swansea – which came after ten years’ service as a player – Monk pondered: “I don’t really want to get into the Swansea side of it. I don’t really want to go too much back into that. That’s gone now, it’s done. I’m really about looking forward.

“But having to deal with a high-pressure situation in the top league and with everything that goes with it, learning very quickly without the so-called experience with everything that was thrown at me, there’s a number of things that you have to learn very quickly.

“I felt that overall, it was a fantastic experience in a short space of time in terms of the transition from a player to a manager.

“I think I was pretty highly successful in that period and it’s using those experiences now – with the improvements that you try and make using that time out of the game that I have tried to improve myself as well. It’s about bringing all those ideas and motivation to Leeds United.

“I already feel a stronger manager, I feel really refreshed after the couple of months that I have had out and I have watched a lot of football in terms of analysing and everything like that. I’m ready to put that way of working into place here so I’m just really looking forward.”

Monk won’t have long to wait with the head coach set to begin work in Leeds next week after spending this weekend back at home in Swansea where the former centre-back will be sizing up his second job in management.

The former defender was linked with the jobs at Aston Villa, Fulham and Bristol City to name just three during his six month absence – but believes United will be worth the wait.

“I feel I have a way of working that will suit Leeds United, that will suit the players that are here,” said the new head coach.

“The way that the club wants to grow as well and the way the club wants to push forward and have success – I think we all want that.

“I can sense that and especially with the fanbase that we have here, I think of all that, when you put it together is somewhere where you want to be. It’s a big, big challenge but it’s a really big attraction as well. I have had other options. I have had other people talk to me but for whatever reasons, whether it was timing or it wasn’t the right situation, I feel this is the right situation for me. This is what I have been waiting for. I’m ready to go.”