GARRY MONK has hailed the prospect of Sunday’s “fitting” tribute to Gary Speed, with Leeds United’s head coach then vowing to cause Newcastle United problems on a day when Whites fans remember “one of their own.”
Supporters of both Leeds and Newcastle will remember Speed with a minute’s applause in the 11th minute of Sunday’s Championship clash at Elland Road - celebrating the number the popular winger used to wear for both the Magpies and the Whites.
The former midfielder and Wales boss tragically died aged just 42 in November 2011 and Monk can vividly recall the day he learned of Speed’s passing when United’s head coach was then playing for Swansea City at home to Aston Villa.
Monk can recall helping Swansea’s Welsh international Ashley Williams through the ordeal and has hailed the movement to remember Speed on Sunday as “vitally important” for both Newcastle and Leeds.
As Elland Road prepares to welcome its first sell-out crowd for six years United’s famous home will be super-charged with emotion and atmosphere but the occasion is one Monk says his men are relishing, including doing battle with Championship leaders Newcastle on the pitch.
“It’s vitally important,” said Monk of the Speed tribute.
“I remember the day that it happened, I was playing at the time - playing for Swansea and we were at home to Aston Villa.
“And obviously with the Welsh connections we had a lot of players that were in the Welsh set up under his management at the time.
“There were a lot of staff and a people that knew Garry very well and I remember that day. Everyone was stunned. I couldn’t really believe it, that it was true and I remember playing that game next to a player like Ashley Williams who was in that squad and I had to really nurse him through that game because I think his mind was wandering a little bit, like it would naturally.
“It was a strange feeling that day - I remember that - and it’s a fitting tribute.
“He is a legend for both clubs but I am sure the Leeds fans especially class him as one of their own.
“He came through here as a very young player and I am sure that he will get the right tribute that he deserves.”
Monk has called on his men to maintain their fine recent record at Elland Road. Leeds are now unbeaten in seven at home - following five victories and two draws - and Monk declared that his team had enough talent to cause Newcastle a “difficult afternoon.”
“I have talked before about Elland Road becoming a fortress,” said Monk. “In my experiences here I have obviously been on the other side and I have seen how much of a difficult environment that can be to play in and for an opposition team.
“So I talked about it right at the start - that we needed to make sure Elland Road is a place that teams come to and find it difficult to play and we are building that.
“Now the crowd are responding to it and the players are responding to it.
“Now we want to keep our run at Elland Road going - we are seven games unbeaten at the moment at Elland Road.
“It’s going to be difficult but we know we have enough in the changing room to make sure it’s a difficult day for Newcastle.”
Commenting on the overall feel-good factor sweeping Leeds at present - with his side currently sat sixth in the table - Monk admitted: “It’s important for everyone connected to the club.
“The fans haven’t seen this type of atmosphere for a long time and I know with the Leeds fans, this is what they look for and this is what they want.
“It also shows that the way we are working - we are doing something right and the players are doing something right and long may it continue.
“But it’s hard work and it’s ups and downs as well and we will suffer ups and downs throughout the rest of the season.
“As long as we all stick together and we all fight in the right direction then there will be more occasions in terms of numbers in the ground in the future.”