Leeds United v Oxford United: Clotet set for happy return to Elland Road

Oxford United manager, Pep Clotet.' PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Oxford United manager, Pep Clotet.' PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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TWENTY-EIGHT days have passed since former assistant head coach Pep Clotet left Leeds United.

Garry Monk’s former no 2 bid the club an emotional farewell on social media.

Pep Clotet with Garry Monk and James Beattie prior to the start of last season. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Pep Clotet with Garry Monk and James Beattie prior to the start of last season. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Today is my last day at Leeds United Football Club and I’ll never forget this fantastic period in my life, in which I learned lots and fully enjoyed myself” said Clotet, who had earlier admitted he was ready for a “new stage” in his career.

“I’ll be forever grateful to everyone at Leeds for the affection and support they offered me right from day one.”

Just one day later the Spaniard was unveiled as manager of League One side Oxford United.

As fate would have it, Clotet immediately knew he would be in for a quick return to Elland Road for a pre-season friendly at the end of July.

Training day: Pep Clotet. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Training day: Pep Clotet. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Saturday presents Clotet’s return and four weeks into life at Oxford the Spaniard has already five games in charge including four against Championship sides.

Come Saturday afternoon at LS11, Clotet’s side will be looking to net a hat-trick of positive results against second-tier teams after drawing with Monk’s Middlesbrough and beating Hull City.

Clotet made immediate noises about his ambition upon arriving at Oxford, who finished eighth in League One last term.

The Us only missed out on a play-offs place by four points and the work of boss Michael Appleton led to interest from Leicester City where Appleton is now assistant.

Oxford chairman Darryl Eales moved swiftly to find Appleton’s replacement and revealed that Clotet was the “unanimous choice of the board”.

The Spaniard’s first job in outright management at an English club might have come several years earlier when Brentford came calling in November 2015.

Clotet, though, stayed loyal to Monk as his no 2 at Swansea City yet less than one month later the Spaniard was out of work after Monk was sacked.

Six months later, Clotet and Monk were reunited at Leeds and Clotet quickly became an instant hit with United’s fans.

The 40-year-old’s Twitter page was inundated with messages of support and good wishes upon his departure form LS11 with plenty hoping to see the Spaniard back at Elland Road in the years to come.

Football being football, United’s fans will now see their former no 2 just 28 days after his departure but in the opposite dug out.

And Clotet has certainly made a bright start at Oxford, rather like his football pedigree suggested he would.

Prior to joining Monk at Swansea, the Barcelona-born coach previously managed Cornellà, Figueres, Espanyol B, and Málaga B in Spain as well as having spells in Sweden and Norway with Malmö FF, Halmstads BK and then Viking FK.

“Pep is a proven coach, progressive and hugely knowledgeable,” said chairman Eales. I believe we are fortunate to have attracted such a highly regarded individual who is destined for an outstanding managerial career.”

There were suggestions that Leeds themselves might have given Clotet his first job in outright management as Monk’s successor but the Spaniard was not considered for the position, even though United wanted him to stay.

Leeds instead opted for Thomas Christiansen and the two will come face to face on Saturday in a friendly that was arranged as part of the deal to sign Kemar Roofe from Oxford last summer.

And Christiansen will be keen to avoid the League One outfit taking the scalp of Leeds, a fate that Hull City suffered as part of Oxford’s tour of Portugal this month.

Clotet’s reign started with a 3-0 win against National League South outfit Oxford City, after which the Us jetted out to Alubfiera for clashes against Monk’s Midddlesbrough and Hull.

The Riversiders were held to a goalless draw, after which the Us saw off Hull with a 2-1 victory.

Two more friendlies have followed upon the club’s return to England with Brentford winning a 4-3 thriller at the Kassam on July 19, three days before Birmingham City left with a 2-0 victory.

Clotet has been pleased with his side’s performances against higher-league opposition.

“The fixtures in pre-season have all been Championship sides since Oxford City and we have always performed well, worked hard and played well,” said Clotet.

“I think the team is in good shape and physically the minutes are going in, we just have to keep our identity and then in the league obviously we don’t play Championship sides and all the hard work we have put in over the last few weeks will pay off.”

Oxford also lost last season’s captain this month with John Lundstram sold to Sheffield United as well as their 2016-17 top scorer Chris Maguire who has moved to Bury.

But the Us have made eight new additions to their squad, including James Henry from Wolves and Jonathan Obika from Swindon Town. The club begin their League One season at Oldham Athletic a week on Saturday, the day before United embark on their Championship campaign at Bolton Wanderers.

It is, after all, only Bolton away that really matters.

But not before the Whites come face to face with their former no 2 who can expect plenty of warm welcomes at Elland Road.