Garry Monk hit back at Yann Kermorgant’s claim that Leeds United have “no plan B” but insisted his players would not be motivated by the comments when they clash with Reading on Saturday.
Reading striker Kermorgant set the tone for a key game and stoked an already tense relationship between the teams by accusing Leeds of being too reliant on Chris Wood and questioning if the club could cope without their top scorer.
Wood, who has scored 27 times this season including once against Reading in December, came back from international duty this week with a minor knock but is likely to be passed fit for United’s trip to the Madejski Stadium.
The forward’s finishes account for almost half of Leeds’ Championship goals but Monk rejected the suggestion that Leeds were one dimensional amid renewed criticism from Reading.
Jaap Stam, the Reading manager and former Manchester United defender, caused controversy earlier in the season after reacting to a 2-0 defeat at Elland Road by saying Monk’s tactics were “not my cup of tea”.
Reading retained 77 per cent of possession in that game but were picked off by goals from Wood, who limped off injured in the first half, and Souleymane Doukara.
The crowd taunted Stam’s side with chants of “boring, boring Reading” as they struggled to create chances, prompting the Dutchman to say: “You can tell something about how they are as human beings, to be fair.”
Monk responded at the time by saying he felt “a bit embarrassed” for Stam and asked to respond to Kermorgant’s remarks, United’s head coach said: “I can’t agree with those comments. For anyone who’s come to watch us this season, it’s very clear. Everyone has a clear idea of the role they have to play. Whenever we’ve made changes the guys who’ve come in have performed exceptionally well.
“In that first game against them, Chris actually came off the pitch after 30 minutes. We went on for the rest of that game, performed well, extended our lead, kept a clean sheet and took the three points. So with those comments, I could possibly agree that if Chris had stayed on the pitch we might have won by a bigger margin. I could agree in those circumstances.”
The exchange of words has whipped up a televised meeting between two clubs who are side by side in the Championship and close to qualifying for the play-offs.
Leeds are fourth in the division, one place and two points ahead of Reading in what is a first season in charge for both Monk and Stam.
Asked yesterday if he expected a hostile reception from United’s away following of 3,600, Stam took another swipe, saying: “It’s about supporting your own team and not being hostile against people because we’re not kids anymore.”
Monk, however, denied that the comments by Stam or Kermorgant would be used as an incentive to win Saturday’s game.
“It’s irrelevant,” he said. “We control what we can do and we don’t want to lose focus on what the opposition are doing or saying. That’s the best way to prepare and that’s how we’ve been all season. We’ll continue in that way.
“In my opinion, it’s not for me to talk about the opposition club or for me to tell opposition fans what they should or shouldn’t do. For me that’s a mistake. The focus should be on the football. Hopefully it’s an exciting and good game. That’s what we’re focusing on.”