GARRY Monk has praised the fighting spirit of Marco Silvestri, who is pushing Rob Green for the No 1 jersey three months after being exiled.
Silvestri’s Leeds career looked over at the beginning of July when the Italian goalkeeper was sent home from United’s pre-season camp in Ireland to train with United’s Under-21s.
The acquisition of former England goalkeeper Green had pushed the Italian down the pecking order with Ross Turnbull starting United’s first four games of the season as replacement shot-stopper on the bench.
But Monk says the former Chievo goalkeeper showed a “great reaction” to his pre-season exile, with Silvestri gradually brought back into the fray at Leeds and now pushing hard to become first-choice pick in goal.
After being recalled to United’s bench for the league trip to Sheffield Wednesday in August, Silvestri has started United’s last three games in the EFL Cup and excelled during Tuesday night’s epic fourth round tie against Norwich City at Elland Road.
After making several decent saves during the 90 minutes, the Italian saved three spot-kicks as the game was decided by a penalty shoot-out in which Leeds triumphed 3-2 to book a quarter-final at Liverpool at the end of November. Silvestri – who said a trip to Anfield would be his idea of a dream draw – will be hopeful of starting. Furthermore, the Italian is strongly pressing his claims to become United’s league starter, with Monk hailing the goalkeeper’s success at passing a true test of character over the summer.
“In football, the door should never be closed,” said Monk.
“It’s never closed on any player fully but you have to make decisions at times and you have to do certain things.
“My job when I first came here – not knowing the players 100 per cent and not knowing them fully, not just football-wise but personality and everything – was to do things that test them.
“You see true characters and how they react to different situations – not just a situation like that but different situations that you won’t see in training and all that type of thing. You see how they react.
“Some react very well, some don’t react very well and then that makes it clear in your mind who can help you and who can’t, who can help their team-mates.
“When you put these players in a squad and you put them out onto a pitch, you can trust them.
“Marco showed a great reaction after Ireland and I brought him back into the squad and he is doing very well – it was an excellent performance on Tuesday and that’s what you want.
“But that’s actually also your job – it’s not something miraculous and that is actually a responsibility that every professional footballer should go through and it’s my job to help them understand that as well.”
Asked if Green was still the ‘clear-cut’ first choice goalkeeper, Monk reasoned: “There’s nothing clear cut for all of them. They all have to prove themselves constantly and the ones that have played more minutes have to keep proving themselves because they know there are people breathing down their neck.”
l The funeral of former Leeds United goalkeeper Gary Sprake will take place in Solihull on Tuesday, November 8 at Robin Hood Cemetery on Streetsbrook Road, Solihull, Shirley, B90 3NL.
The family have requested family flowers only but have asked for anyone who wishes to make a donation to send it to the British Heart Foundation. Sprake was 71 and died of a heart attack.