A turnaround in form has seen Leeds fans accentuate the positives in recent days but, as Chris Wood explains to Phil Hay, there is still plenty of improvement to come from Garry Monk’s team.
Leeds United striker Chris Wood believes Garry Monk’s squad will take six months to reach their peak and has urged the club’s players not to “sit back” after three successive wins.
Wood admitted that Leeds were “not the finished article” but he talked up the team’s improvement after they recovered from a poor run of form in August to piece together three victories, helped by his own run of goals.
The striker scored in last week’s Championship win over Blackburn Rovers – a result which came at a time when pressure was mounting on head coach Monk – and his second-half penalty set-up a 2-0 victory away at Cardiff City on Saturday.
Wood came off the bench to strike again in Tuesday’s League Cup win against Blackburn, moving Leeds into round four of the competition and continuing an encouraging turnaround in results.
The former Leicester City player said he had been surprised by the levels of criticism of Monk – and insisted a club who made 11 signings in the summer transfer window were “never going to take two months of the season” to click.
“In my opinion there should never be any pressure on this manager,” Wood said.
“He’s come in and done a fantastic job.
“He’s changed a lot of players and the backroom staff and we’re trying a whole new philosophy here.
“We’re not the finished article, far from it, but we’re building in the right direction. That’s the main thing. It was never going to take two months of a season.
“It’s going to take six months. But you want to see progress early on and that’s what we’re seeing now.
“He’s adding things and making us better in terms of how we play.
“You can see we’re playing better football now, working out from the back and pressing in the right direction – pressing hard, keeping our shape. It’s coming along nicely and I think it’s going well.”
Wood’s own form has improved alongside United’s and the striker, like Monk, has responded to criticism which came his way in the early weeks of the season.
The forward predicted confidently in pre-season that injury permitting he would reach 20 goals this term, as he has once before in his career during the 2012-13 campaign but he was jeered by the crowd at Elland Road during a 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City last month. The following Tuesday, he snatched a 1-1 draw against Fulham with a late overhead kick and reacted by cupping his ear to the Kop.
Wood’s recent finishes, however, have taken him to six goals and increased expectation of him hitting the 20-mark. “That’s not what they were saying at the start of the season,” Wood joked.
“But it doesn’t matter. It’s one of those things.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment.
“Any goal is a nice goal to me. I don’t care how they go in. If they go in off my backside I don’t mind one bit.
“But it doesn’t matter if you are scoring goals, as long as someone is and you’re winning games.
“First and foremost I want to work hard for the boys when I go out on the pitch.
“As long as they see me working hard and I see them doing the same, at the end of the day you can go into the dressing room feeling okay.
“You might lose games but you can look each other in the eye, say you’ve given your all and think that you’ll do the same next time and win.
“At the moment, we’re all doing our jobs and working hard.
“That’s what’s getting us results.”
No less crucial for Monk than Wood’s spate of goals has been the improvement amongst his defence and three clean sheets in four matches. That sequence coincided with the promotion of Pontus Jansson to the starting line-up, though the Sweden international was taken ill on Tuesday and missed the League Cup win over Blackburn.
Rovers were denied a goal by a series of excellent saves from second-choice goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, including two late on while the tie was still goalless.
Jansson should return for Saturday’s Championship meeting with Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town, along with regular goalkeeper Rob Green, as Leeds continue to fight their way through a packed schedule of matches.
Monk’s side have already played four times since the season’s first international break ended on September 10 and three more fixtures await – among them a midweek trip to Bristol City next Tuesday – before the term pauses once again for another round of World Cup qualifiers.
“We’ve worked hard to get these three wins and we’re not going to sit and lie down now,” Wood said.
“This is the most important and crucial time.
“Now we’ve got these three wins we need to kick on and put a run of six, seven or eight games together if we can.
“That’s what we’re really aiming for.
“Sometimes you have to find a way and when you get seven games in 22 days it’s very tough.
“But at the moment we’re grinding out wins and the back five are doing absolutely fantastic in keeping these clean sheets.
“If they keep doing that we will win more games, I’m telling you.”