Leeds United: Whites won’t wilt under the pressure - Monk

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Garry Monk has attempted to ease the pressure on his promotion-chasing squad by claiming their success in putting Leeds United “back on the map” this season would outweigh the achievement of a top-six finish.

Garry Monk has attempted to ease the pressure on his promotion-chasing squad by claiming their success in putting Leeds United “back on the map” this season would outweigh the achievement of a top-six finish.

Speaking ahead of a crucial home game against Preston North End, Monk rallied United’s players after successive away defeats and backed them to withstand the scrutiny caused by losses to Reading and Brentford in the past week.

Leeds dropped six points in the space of four days, dropping to fifth position in the Championship and exposing themselves to the clubs in pursuit of the top six.

Eighth-placed Preston closed to within eight points of United with a 5-0 thrashing of Bristol City on Tuesday and they travel to Elland Road this weekend with a chance of making a last-gasp bid for the play-offs.

Monk denied that nerves were affecting Leeds and said he had told his squad to draw confidence from a season which could see United finish inside the Championship’s top six for the first time in 11 years.

The club had been constrained by controversy and discord prior to Monk’s appointment as head coach last June but a highly-competitive season has transformed the atmosphere at Elland Road. Another attendance in excess of 30,000 is expected tomorrow.

“It’s impossible to doubt this group,” Monk said. “They’ve achieved something already which is harder than achieving the opportunity to fight for a play-off place. They’ve put Leeds back on the map. They’ve made everyone talk about Leeds for the right reasons, which is the football, the results and the performances.

“They’ve given the club something back, a team they can be proud of, and that’s harder to achieve than the position we’re in, with a chance to get to the play-offs.

“This is a situation the club haven’t seen for a long time, with the crowds, the atmosphere and the numbers who are coming. We’ve had a lot of games

that have been very meaningful and they still are at this point. It’s got the buzz among the crowd.

“The results and performances have got everyone talking about the players and that’s what the club’s been missing. It’s something we’re all very proud of. The challenge for us now is to keep showing why we’ve been talked about this season.”

Leeds are potentially two wins away from sealing a play-off position but the failure to accrue any points from trips to Reading and Brentford prevented the club from consolidating their standing

Monk said: “Nothing changes. We’re disappointed with those two results but there are ups and downs in the Championship and we’re no different to any other team.

“We understand the excitement. We understand the talk about us, considering where we’ve been in the league for a long time now.

The players have been fantastic all season and they’ve grown throughout the season. That’s what I’m making them focus on. Play for those reasons, not because we’ve got an opportunity to cement a play-off place. When we suffer a negative, bounce back and respond. That’s what we’ll be trying to do.”

Monk’s influence as head coach has been at the centre of Leeds’ revival but the 37-year-old, along with his backroom team of Pep Clotet, James Beattie and Darryl Flahavan, is out of contract at the end of the season and yet to hold talks over a fresh agreement.

The deal agreed with him last summer includes an option for Leeds to extend it by 12 months but the club are under pressure to offer Monk more substantial terms after his performance in his first season in charge.

“I’m focused on the football but I’m sure the club will want to sit down at some point,” Monk said.

“When that happens, when the club ask me for that, then no problems but I’m focused on this game on Saturday.”

Asked if he expected negotiations to wait until the end of the season, Monk said: “You’d have to ask the club. I can’t speak for the club on that side of it but everything I’m doing is for the players.

“I’m sure the club when they’re ready will want to talk about the future but for me it’s not right now.”