MASSIMO CELLINO has identified Garry Monk as his No 1 choice to fill the vacant Leeds United head coach’s position with talks underway with the former Swansea City boss.
Whites chairman Cellino called time on the sixth head coach of his Elland Road reign on Tuesday evening when relieving Steve Evans of his duties after seven months in charge.
With moves for MK Dons boss Karl Robinson and Bristol Rovers manager Darrell Clarke already shunned, former Swansea chief Monk was immediately made the odds-on favourite for the role and The Yorkshire Post understands that initial contact has been made between Monk and his representatives, with Cellino hoping to make an appointment over the next few days.
Monk, 37, guided Swansea to their best ever Premier Division finish of eighth and with a record points total in 2014-15 but was sacked the following December after one win in 11 league games.
The former Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley centre-back had previously been touted as a future England manager given his initial success upon being handed the Swansea job – his only experience of management so far – in December 2015.
Asked whether or not the Leeds job would appeal to Monk, the former Swansea manager’s agent Glenn Corcoran said: “It’s only my opinion but Leeds is a big club and when you are out of work you wouldn’t say no to a club like Leeds. If they are interested in him I am sure he would talk to them but that’s my opinion.”
Cellino has vowed to refund at least 25 per cent of the cost of all season tickets bought before the May 31 deadline should United fail to reach the play-offs. That refund will rise to 50 per cent should the club sell 15,000 season tickets by the end of July. Leeds have already sold just over 13,000, already surpassing last year’s total of 12,500.
As a player, Monk captained Swansea to promotion from the Championship when beating Reading 4-2 in the play-off final of 2011.
Whites chairman Cellino has been through six head coaches since arriving at Leeds in January 2014, namely Brian McDermott, David Hockaday, Darko Milanic, Neil Redfearn, Uwe Rosler and most recently Evans.
Evans’s exit from Leeds had been on the cards for some weeks, with the 53-year-old publicly calling for clarity on his future while Cellino interviewed other candidates for his job.
The Glaswegian said he was told he would be given a new deal beyond the end of the season if he kept Leeds in the Championship – something he did with ease – but he was then left in limbo by Cellino who went weeks without contacting the former Rotherham boss.
While Evans waited for news, Cellino spoke to MK Dons boss Robinson and made an unsuccessful approach for Bristol Rovers manager Clarke.
Evans was then put of his misery on Tuesday, with Cellino saying: “I would like to thank Steve Evans for his efforts as the head coach of Leeds United.
“Steve completed the job he was brought in to carry out – to keep the team in the Championship – and his hard work here has been greatly appreciated. I wish him and (assistant) Paul Raynor the very best for the future.
“We have, however, decided that a different approach is required in order to achieve our targets for the new season. The club is now looking to appoint a new head coach to build on the good work of Steve and Paul and deliver the special season which our supporters deserve.”
All eyes are now on Monk who, in Swansea’s record-breaking 2014-15 Premier Division campaign, steered the club to league doubles over both Manchester United and Arsenal.
The Bedford-born former centre-back has previously been linked with the managerial posts at Aston Villa, Fulham and Bristol City. Upon relieving Monk of his Swansea managerial duties back in December, chairman Huw Jenkins said: “The decision has been made very reluctantly and with a heavy heart. When you take into account the excellent campaign we had last season when we broke all club records in the Premier League, nobody foresaw the position we would be in at this moment in time. It was not a decision we took lightly, especially given Garry’s history and standing within the club.”
Monk spent 11 years at Swansea as a player and then manager, winning three promotions having began life down in League Two in 2004 upon switching from Barnsley.
The defender began his career at Torquay United from where he switched to Southampton for eight years during which time he had loan spells at Torquay, Stockport County, Oxford United, Wednesday and Barnsley.
After becoming captain of Swansea, Monk released an autobiography in 2012 – and the following season he had a League Cup winners’ medal to boast about, having beaten Bradford City 5-0 to bag Swansea’s first major hour in their 101-year history.