Last January, Thomas Christiansen’s predecessor Garry Monk paid the price for fielding a weakened team in the FA Cup. The Dane says he will also make changes but expects Leeds to win. Lee Sobot reports.
THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN was over 2,000 miles away when Leeds United became the victims of an FA Cup shock this time last year.
As Christiansen went about his business as APOEL head coach in the Cypriot League, Garry Monk took Leeds to Conference outfit Sutton United where an understrength line-up were dumped out of the competition.
One year on, League Two hosts Newport County will be looking for history to repeat itself on Sunday afternoon.
But ahead of his assignment in the FA Cup, Christiansen insists he is fully aware of the possibility of another upset with the Dane instructing his players to have the right mindset to avoid another unwanted “surprise”.
Christiansen had been at AEK for nine months when Monk and Leeds travelled to Sutton.
The Whites set off for their assignment in south London having won seven of their last nine games.
But BT Sport had selected the game sensing an upset could be on the cards and former boss Monk helped set one up, by making 10 changes and starting with two youngsters who appeared some way from United’s first team in Billy Whitehouse and Paul McKay, who both made their Whites debuts.
With the likes of Chris Wood, Pablo Hernandez and Rob Green left out altogether, a disjointed and disappointing United fell 1-0 behind to Jamie Collins’ 30th-minute penalty and Leeds failed to recover with Liam Cooper shown a second yellow card eight minutes from time.
One year on, United face another banana skin at Newport who are a division higher than Sutton and Christiansen has admitted he will definitely be making changes.
Teenage Dutch striker Jay-Roy Grot will definitely bag a rare start upfront while Christiansen has already confirmed that development squad quartet Jack Clarke, Oriol Rey, Liam Kitching and Tom Pearce are all possibles to travel with the side.
Through BBC Wales, the TV cameras are back in a bid to capture another Whites FA Cup shock, but Christiansen says he and his players will be acutely aware of the threat posed byCounty, with the Dane determined for his club to avoid another FA Cup slaying for the second year in a row.
Asked how wary he was of avoiding a similar outcome to the loss at Sutton United last year, Christiansen admitted: “No-one wants to go out in the cup and less so against a lower ranked team.
“But this is the beauty that this cup has and if it’s famous for something it’s that these things can happen.
“If you take it serious enough, if you are lucky, unlucky, whatever, this can happen and we have to be prepared and aware of all these things that can happen and to put it into the mind of the players that it’s another serious game.
“If we don’t get want to get a surprise, we have to take it like that.”
Having never played the current Newport County who were reformed in 1989 before this season, United are now preparing to face the Exiles for the second time in less than five months, with the League Two outfit having visited Elland Road in the second round of the EFL Cup towards the end of August.
United eventually recorded a 5-1 victory but only after Newport had taken a 33rd-minute lead through Joss Labadie, cancelled out by a 44th-minute leveller from Kemar Roofe, which prevented the Whites from trailing at the break.
Roofe completed a 21-minute hat-trick before Samu Saiz and Ronaldo Vieira also netted but County continued to have chances and Exiles striker Padraig Almond said this week that the game “could have finished 5-5”. The Welsh outfit sit 11th and just three points outside the League Two play-offs and Mike Flynn’s side have lost just one of their last eight games.
“First of all it’s a long travel to play a difficult game against Newport,” said Christiansen, sizing up what Leeds can expect.
“We faced them in the other cup and got a very good result but we saw that we had to give our best to take the win and we made it, especially in the second half because in the first we suffered. We want to try not to suffer so much.”
Ultimately, though, despite admitting that he will make plenty of changes, Christiansen knows it is “obvious” that Leeds will need to progress and the Dane is hoping United can enjoy a decent run in the competition as a whole.
Christiansen admits he would ultimately relish the opportunity to take on a Premier League big gun at Elland Road.
“I would like to go far in this competition,” admitted Christiansen
“But there’s many things you have to see. How is your squad? The players you have available, where in the season you are in the different moment and what are your priorities – the league, the cup. But at the moment we will try and go for everything.
“I believe right now we have a difficult game. We have a long travel and a team on their pitch.
“It will be direct play and it will be a tough game for the way we play but we need to go the next round, this is obvious and we will do our best.
“We will see when we pass how far we can go and also the players we have available, what we can do and if we can try and go far.”