Garry Monk took a swipe at the scheduling of Leeds United’s fixtures and said his team were becoming “the most moved in the country” after television commitments handed them two games in four days.
Monk’s squad contested an FA Cup third-round tie at Cambridge United on Monday night and will face Derby County in a key Championship clash tomorrow after separate broadcasters opted to screen the matches.
BT Sport rearranged the club’s trip to Cambridge from 3pm last Saturday despite an earlier decision by Sky Sports to bring forward Derby’s visit to Elland Road to a Friday evening.
Monk will put his players through a full training session today with doubts still hanging over the fitness of centre-back Liam Cooper who was injured in a 2-1 win over Cambridge but the United’s head coach said they had been limited to recovery sessions by the quick turnaround. Monk countered the demands of Leeds’ schedule by making eight changes to his line-up on Monday but he said the regular re-arrangments were “to our detriment” and revealed the club had already been notified of further television alterations to come.
Leeds have the chance to move eight points clear of seventh-placed Derby tomorrow night and tighten their hold on a play-off spot and Monk insisted he did not want to use a disrupted schedule as “an excuse” for any poor results.
But Derby have not played since their own FA Cup win at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and the 37-year-old said: “Going forward we’ve been made aware of a few fixtures that are going to be moved again. I think we have to be the most moved team in the country.
“I understand that it makes money for companies and that Leeds are a big attraction outside the Premier League but it’s to our detriment in terms of recovery and congestion in the fixtures.
“It’s not an excuse. We’ll meet it head on and we’ll do what we have to do but I don’t think it’s very fair the amount of times we’ve been moved. Other teams who are in or around us or in this league aren’t getting moved anywhere near what we are.
“But it is what it is and we have to deal with it.”
Televised fixtures have been a bone of contention at Elland Road for some time, leading to a bitter dispute between Leeds co-owner Massimo Cellino and the Football League last season.
United and Derby – another club with frustrations about the issue – are discussing the possibility of staging a friendly at Pride Park in March in what is seen as the latest stage of a challenge among Football League sides to the governing body’s broadcast contract with Sky.
Leeds were shown live in five successive matches during November and December and next month’s visit to Huddersfield Town has been rescheduled no fewer than three times owing to Sky’s plans to cover it.
It will now kick off at noon on Sunday, February 5. The club have kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday only twice since November 5.
Monk said he had no say in any of the changes to United’s fixture list. “That’s not how you’d expect it to be,” he said, “but we won’t use it as an excuse.
“That’s not how we work here. We’ll use it as motivation to come through it.
“Because of the tight turnaround all the players are on a second day of recovery. We did a little bit of tactical work but it’s been very minimal. (Today) is when we’ll get a gauge on the group and who’s ready.”
United’s impressive form has continued unabated and a win over Steve McClaren’s Derby would put daylight between Leeds and seventh position.
But Monk said: “I’m not bothered about the league or who’s around us. I just focus on the three points. For the players that’s served them incredibly well.
“We have a mindset and mentality. It’s done us well up to this point and we’re not going to change it.”