GARRY Monk says recently dropped Irish international midfielder Eunan O’Kane remains an “important player” for Leeds United, despite missing Tuesday’s clash at Fulham through tactical reasons and not injury.
O’Kane was a surprise absentee from the match-night 18 despite Leeds being without Chris Wood, Lewie Coyle and Tyler Denton through injury plus Luke Ayling after his partner gave birth to the couple’s baby girl.
O’Kane had started alongside captain Liam Bridcutt in last Friday night’s 3-1 triumph at Birmingham City but was substituted after 59 minutes for Kalvin Phillips who was then given the nod to start alongside Bridcutt at Fulham.
Ronaldo Vieira, who was himself left out of the match-day squad at Birmingham, returned to the bench in place of O’Kane at Craven Cottage.
But Monk has said there are no injuries or other concerns with O’Kane who the head coach expects to still be a key member of United’s squad moving forward ahead of the last 10 games of the Championship run in.
The Irish international midfielder has been troubled by a groin problem this season but was fit and available for Tuesday night’s clash at Fulham. Asked for the reason as to O’Kane’s lack of involvement against Fulham, Monk said: “It’s part of the management, decisions you have to make as a squad.
“They are all important and Eunan is an important player for us and will be going forward. Sometimes you make decisions and you have to manage the squad how you feel and what’s best for that squad and that was the situation for the game against Fulham.”
The positive bulletin concerning O’Kane means United are without only three players for tomorrow’s Elland Road clash with QPR.
Kalvin Phillips serves the first match of a two-game ban, while Tyler Denton and Lewie Coyle are injured.
“It’s just them two now,” said Monk, of Denton and Coyle.
“It’s unfortunate – they are doing well – but they will be a few weeks away with their injuries. The rest are fully fit and ready to go for the weekend.”
United’s head coach also insisted that he will have no qualms about selecting Luke Ayling and Kyle Bartley, despite the defensive duo being within touching distance of avoiding potential two match-bans.
Ayling and Bartley both have nine yellow cards each and a 10th against QPR would mean a two-match suspension.
If the duo come through this weekend’s clash unscathed, then the pair will be allowed four more yellow cards between now and the end of the season without a ban as the threshold will be raised to 15.
Asked if that came into his thinking, Monk replied simply: “No. We are here to win games. We are to put on points and here to perform and my job is to select the team that I think is the best to win this game and the next game is always the most important.
“It’s not about what happens in four/five weeks, it’s what happens right now and this game at the weekend is the most important game to us and we will focus on it like that.”