Garry Monk expertly dodges mind-games minefield ahead of Reading v Leeds United

Leeds United's head coach Garry Monk (
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).Leeds United's head coach Garry Monk (
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Leeds United's head coach Garry Monk ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
LIKE any decent former centre-half worth his salt, Garry Monk is clearly a perceptive reader of the game.

Questioned about striking comments emanating from a rival camp ahead of a key fixture, Leeds United’s head coach knew what was coming, kept steadfastly ‘on message’ and noticeably relaxed too.

It was perhaps good preparation for the play-offs later down the line this Spring. And there was certainly no way that he was going to bite.

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The comments in question – if anyone had not noticed – related to the suggestion by Reading’s veteran forward Yann Kermorgant that Leeds lack a ‘Plan B’ without the considerable goals input from top-scorer Chris Wood.

Further comments from Royals boss Jaap Stam, who implied that Whites fans should effectively grow up after chants of ‘boring, boring Reading’ in the reverse fixture at Elland Road in a clear swipe at the Berkshire club’s possession-based game, have also added fuel to the fire ahead of tomorrow’s televised Championship meeting at the Madejski Stadium.

Monk is plainly not interested in contributing significantly to the pre-match brouhaha – or creating any further unnecessary fuss by provoking a direct rival either.

Perish the thought. Especially in Spring time when careless talk can prove costly.

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Just ask former Preston manager Billy Davies, whose infamous ‘job done’ declaration after North End’s play-off semi-final first-leg draw at Elland Road in May 2006 came back to haunt him.

The comments of Kermorgant and Stam are not quite in that league, but they have clearly grated with many Leeds supporters and look somewhat untimely and ill advised.

Especially given that the Royals and Leeds may renew acquaintances in May.

In contrast, Monk appeared rather more circumspect, and while he did politely disagree with the views of Kermorgant – and backed it up with fact – he decided to move on pretty quickly. All rather nicely done.

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Monk, whose side beat Reading 2-0 in Leeds, despite losing Wood to injury after 33 minutes with the score at 1-0, said: “I cannot agree with those (no Plan B) comments. Anyone who has come to watch us this season, it is very clear. Everyone has a clear idea of the roles they have to play.

“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.

“If Chris had stayed on the pitch, we might have won by a bigger margin. I would have to agree in that circumstance.”

Monk is almost a couple of years shy of his fortieth birthday and in the relative infancy of what many expect to be a long career in management, but he has already learned plenty.

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Not indulging in mind games or being side-tracked is definitely one of those early lessons.

Monk, “very confident” that Wood will be available for tomorrow’s game after flying home early from international duty with New Zealand after sustaining a heavy knock, added: “Outside influences are irrelevant to us. We focus on what we are doing and put our mentality and our way of playing and our spirit into every game.

“For me, in my opinion, it is not for me to talk about the opposition club or for me to tell opposition fans what they should or should not do. For me, that is a mistake.

“The focus should be on the football. Hopefully it is an exciting and good game. That is what we are focusing on.”

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Monk’s adept pre-match handling of comments from the Reading corner complemented the authoritative way in which he quickly defused any issues after dropping Pontus Jansson to the bench for United’s recent home game with Brighton. This said, a 2-0 victory for his side did not half help.

But what is also clear is that a line has been drawn under a potential flashpoint, with Jansson, who recently stated in the Swedish media that he fully respected Monk’s decision, having quickly refocused and done his bit.

It remains to be seen if he finds a way back into the starting line-up tomorrow and Monk is not one for showing his hand.

The United chief added: “It is my job to make decisions that are best for the group and best for this team to be able to win games and get results.

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“And also it is always going to be about following the principles that we have.

“Pontus is an important part of this group – as are all of the players – and we are here together.

“We are very united and we are ready for these last eight games.

“I will make the decision that I need to make and how I want to make it and what is always best for the team. I will always do that.

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“All the players that have played this season, all of them have contributed and whenever we have made changes, everyone has come in and performed very well, so that will continue in the last eight games.”