LEEDS United head coach Garry Monk will hold his press conference ahead of Saturday evening’s Championship clash at Reading at 1pm at Thorp Arch today. Lee Sobot looks at some of the main issues the head coach will address.
Is Chris Wood fit to face Reading?
Quite clearly top of the agenda, especially in light of Reading’s Yann Kermorgant labelling Leeds a one-man team who have “no plan B” without their top scorer. It will be interesting to hear if Monk cares to comment on Kermorgant’s views. But more pressing is the fact that Wood flew home to England early whilst on international duty with New Zealand after picking up a knock in Saturday’s game against Fiji. But New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson then stated that there were no serious problems with the forward who had been released as a precaution only.
“Chris’s injury is not too serious but I’ve decided to be extra cautious,” said Hudson.
“It’s important that we have a fit and healthy Chris Wood for the FIFA Confederations Cup and qualifiers late in the year.”
More important for Leeds is that Wood is fit for Saturday’s crunch clash at fifth-placed Reading.
How are the club’s other internationals?
There have been no reports of any other injuries to the Whites players on international duty - namely Pontus Jansson (Sweden), Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland), Eunan O’Kane (Republic Of Ireland), Liam Cooper (Scotland) and Mo Barrow (Gambia). Cooper did not even feature in two games for Scotland. But the other quartet all featured for their nations and Pontus Jansson played 135 minutes in two games for Sweden. The centre-back’s countrymen were 2-0 down at half-time to a Portugal side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday but with Jansson on the pitch the Swedes recovered to record a 3-2 victory. It will also be interesting to hear how Jansson has reacted to surprisingly being dropped for Liam Cooper for the win against Brighton before the international break, though Jansson has already spoken to the Swedish press about taking the decision on the chin, praising Monk in the process.
Nevertheless, whether Monk opts to start Jansson or Cooper next to Kyle Bartley is a key decision.
Anything to add to the Jaap Stam spat?
Classy Monk rarely enters into a squabbles with other managers - not forgetting David Wagner of course - but the Whites head coach admitted he felt “embarrassed” for Stam after hearing his comments in the aftermath of December’s 2-0 loss at Elland Road. Stam felt Monk’s men did not deserve their victory because his side had enjoyed 80 per cent of possession - but without doing anything with it. United’s fans subsequently dished out chants of “boring, boring Reading” - to which Stam retorted afterwards “you can tell something about how they are as human beings to be fair.”
Former Manchester United defender Stam was then asked yesterday if he expected a hostile reception from United’s visiting fans on Saturday, to which he replied: “It would be nice if they come over here and instead of them being hostile we can be hostile against them. It should be that way around.
“But it’s not being hostile. It’s about supporting your own team and not being hostile against people because we’re not kids anymore.”
How are Lewie Coyle and Tyler Denton?
Both remain fringe players at present but promising ones and the full backs were United’s only two injuries heading into the international break - though Luke Ayling is still suspended with the Reading game being the final fixture of his two-game ban. Kalvin Phillips returns from his two-match ban.
Coyle had been nursing a foot injury with Denton having had an operation on his knee. Speaking before the Brighton game, Monk said he expected Coyle to be back after the international break with Denton another two weeks after that.