How new Leeds United coach Garry Monk proved doubters wrong

Garry Monk, unveiled as Leeds Uniteds new head coach at Elland Road, is flanked by club legend Eddie Gray and new director Niccolo Barratieri (Picture: Tony Johnson).
Garry Monk, unveiled as Leeds Uniteds new head coach at Elland Road, is flanked by club legend Eddie Gray and new director Niccolo Barratieri (Picture: Tony Johnson).
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AFTER being thrust under the white-hot glare of the Premier League spotlight at Swansea City, Garry Monk is likely to find the heat no less intense at Leeds United.

It is perhaps just as well that the club’s latest head coach has been seasoned to high-pressure managerial stakes, even accounting for his embryonic career.

Those experiences are likely to come in handy at Elland Road, you would venture.

Monk’s managerial career began in West Wales just shy of his 35th birthday in February 2014 after earning the full-time job at the Liberty Stadium following the axing of Michael Laudrup.

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The word on the street – and on the managerial grapevine – was that a top-flight survival fight was no place for a rookie, whose first match in the position was a highly-charged South Wales derby against the Swans’ bitter rivals Cardiff City .

Monk’s side won 3-0 and he continued to prove the doubters emphatically wrong by leading the club to safety.

Just to prove it was no fluke, he then guided the Swans to the highest finish in their history – with an eighth-placed finish in 2014-15 – famously joining an exclusive club of managers to do the top-flight double over Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in the process.

His star continued to shine and he was even touted in some quarters as potential future candidate for the England job before the fall, with Monk – just five months after signing a new three-year-deal – sacked just before Christmas after presiding over a run of one win in 11 matches.

It was a sobering lesson, but refreshed and recharged, he is now ready for his next challenge, while being hardened by what has gone before.

It is perhaps just as well after becoming Leeds’s seventh permanent head coach in the space of two years.

Monk, who spent his part of his managerial ‘sabbatical’ studying coaching methods at several clubs, including serial Europa League winners Seville, said: “I had to deal with a high-pressure situation in the top league and with everything that goes with it.

“I had to learn very quickly without the so-called experience, which was thrown at me.

“Overall, it was a fantastic experience. I think I was hugely successful and it is a case of using that experience and time out of the game to improve myself to bring all that motivation and ideas to Leeds United.

“You have to move on quickly, learn from your experience and use them to your advantage. That is the key in any line of business, especially football.

“Now it is about the future and Leeds United and putting a winning formula together.

“I really feel a stronger manager and refreshed after the months I have had out and I have watched a lot of football in terms of analysing and am ready to put that way of working in here and I am looking forward to it.”

Monk’s predecessors have all suffered, to various degrees, with the king-sized challenge at Leeds under the most exacting of owners in Massimo Cellino.

Since the club’s push for the play-offs in 2010-11, United have made considerably more headlines off the pitch than on it – and if Monk starts to reverse that cycle, then his reign will ultimately represent an unqualified success.

He added: “I haven’t come here to do the average or be mediocre. We want to achieve promotion and every club in this league will tell you the same, but the club that we are and the plan that we need to put in place can hopefully achieve that.

“It is not to add pressure to us, it is to embrace it.

“We are in a club where if we get it right and make a few tweaks to certain areas, then we can definitely achieve a good season.”

The elephant in the room is unquestionably the reputation of club owner Cellino – and the issue of how Monk, in contrast to those who went before him, can somehow hold his own and prosper under an owner whose patience with head coaches is somewhat fleeting.

Monk has taken Cellino as he has found him so far after some engaging early meetings with the Italian.

The real test for Monk will begin in August.

Monk, whose previous experiences of Yorkshire came during loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley in the 2002-03 campaign, said: “After speaking with the owner deeply about the football and about the way he wants to take the club forward and his knowledge of football, which was very, very good and very extensive – it matched mine and it matched my ambition.

“We had some great discussions and I really felt his passion and knowledge for this club.

“It is something not to be underestimated and it matched my ambitions. That is why I am here.

“I am a young manager, but I am not a manager that wants to take the easy route.

“I want to have challenges put in front of me; big challenges. This is a big challenge, but what a fantastic club to come and take that challenge on.”