AS HE prepares to go head-to-head with the manager who set him on the path to becoming a Premier League regular, Garry Monk insists Kenny Jackett is the right fit for Rotherham United.
The 54-year-old took charge of the Millers a little over five weeks ago in the wake of Alan Stubbs’s departure following a wretched start to the season.
A return of just six points from the opening 13 games meant Jackett faced an uphill task in turning things round from the start and the strugglers will host Leeds tomorrow sitting 11 points adrift of safety.
Despite that and the Millers being yet to win under their new manager, Monk is adamant Jackett is the man to turn things around at the New York Stadium.
“I have massive respect for Kenny,” said the Elland Road chief. “I know him very well. He brought me in at Swansea and he did a fantastic job there.
“He was the one who came in and set us off on the winning mentality that was created at the club. He is massively experienced and they will be organised. They will also be determined. We have to be ready for that.
“You can talk about favourites (going into a game), but we don’t look at it like that. We are looking at what they can offer and our need to combat that. We need to be on our game.”
Monk was signed by Jackett at Swansea, then in the basement division, during the summer of 2004 and went on to make more than 280 appearances for the Welsh club.
He played under Jackett for a little over two and a half years, winning promotion at the end of that first season and then only missing out on a place in the Championship 12 months later when beaten by Barnsley on penalties in the play-off final.
Jackett left the Liberty Stadium in February, 2007, but he is widely regarded as the manager who laid the foundations for the Swans’ subsequent climb into the Premier League.
Now, he faces a huge task in keeping the Millers up against all the odds. Asked if he was surprised by Jackett’s decision to accept the Rotherham job, Monk replied: “Kenny can answer that question better than I can but, as a manager, you back yourself and you want challenges.
“He is very experienced at this level and will do a fantastic job. You can see he has had an effect. Okay, results wise it isn’t where he wants it to be, but when analysing (recent matches), I can see how organised they are.
“He has brought an idea to them and it takes a bit of time to implement that. I am sure he will put them in the right way, but, hopefully, after our game.”
Monk’s focus ahead of taking on one of his predecessors at the Liberty is to ensure the second of five consecutive Leeds games being shown live on Sky TV ends with his side having bounced back from last Sunday’s defeat at home to leaders Newcastle United.
The loss brought to an end a three-game winning run that had seen Monk’s men leap into the play-off places.
A mistake by Rob Green led to the Magpies breaking the deadlock in the first half, but the Elland Road head coach insists he has no concerns over the former England goalkeeper going into tomorrow’s derby.
“Football is football,” he said. “Of course you don’t want to make mistakes and no one goes out intentionally to make mistakes, but they do happen, especially in those type of areas.
“Rob is experienced enough and clever enough to deal with those situations. If you look at the whole team, every single one of those players has made a mistake throughout the season. You can’t judge players on mistakes. You judge them on their reaction.
“They know where they are and we don’t make a big deal of it. You don’t want to make the same mistake twice and you want to learn from it, but it doesn’t matter how old you are, a young Ronaldo (Vieira) at 18 or Rob in his late 30s – it’s the same process.
“We are all in it together, we all support each other and we’re just focused on performing this weekend.”
United have been beaten on both previous visits to the New York and their attempts to avoid a hat-trick of losses at the home of the Millers will have to come without a couple of key players.
Pontus Jansson, such a big influence in defence since joining from Torino on loan, is suspended after collecting a fifth booking of the season last Sunday.
Pablo Hernandez is also still sidelined after Monk confirmed the Spaniard could be out for “two to three more weeks” with a hamstring problem, while club captain Liam Bridcutt remains absent despite recently returning to training with the first team.
Liam Cooper will come in for Jansson alongside Kyle Bartley and Monk added: “I have said it before, I have got three really good, top centre-backs, especially for this level.
“That is good for me and it is good for them in terms of the competition and how competitive it is. The good thing with the group is that they support each other.”