After occupying the top six positions in the Championship for a large part of the season the month of April put paid to Leeds United’s play-off hopes. There is no time like the present to begin working towards the new season though and guaranteeing Garry Monk is still in charge for it must be the number one priority at Leeds.
When Garry Monk was appointed the new head coach of Leeds United he was only given a 12 month contract. In fairness, given owner Massimo Cellino’s penchant for sacking managers, you would be forgiven for thinking he would not be around long enough to even see that out. He has, and though it is understood there is an option to extend that by a further year, it should be in Leeds United’s best interest to give Monk a longer contract.
The appointment of Monk at Leeds was met by sincere optimism from Leeds fans and by an element of surprise by fans of other clubs. After the employment of some lesser known names as managers in recent times under Cellino, Darko Milanic and David Hockaday to name a couple, it felt Leeds finally had a real manager. The task at hand was nonetheless a huge one for Monk.
Monk would realise as early as the opener to the campaign, a 3-0 loss away at QPR, just how big the job was. There was the same errors in defence, the same lack of fight in the middle, and a lack of firepower up front.
After a poor start to the season, losing twice and drawing once in his first three league games, a breakthrough arrived at the home of rivals Sheffield Wednesday. There were signs of what Monk was hoping to achieve at Leeds. By the end of the first month of the season, Monk had been able to bolster his squad slightly, particularly at the back. Club captain Sol Bamba was encouraged to leave and in came Pontus Jansson on loan, who will sign permanently in the summer, and Luke Ayling who was signed from Bristol City. With Kyle Bartley in from Swansea on a season loan and Gaetano Berardi soon to take over from Charlie Taylor at full back, it was a back four that would become one of the reasons Leeds would push for the play-offs.
Another reason for this, and one of the main factors, was the improvement of Chris Wood in attack. Last season the New Zealand international managed just 13 goals in all competitions and had come in for some criticism from parts of the Elland Road stadium. Since the arrival of Garry Monk, and without question James Beattie, Chris Wood has been transformed into one of the hottest strikers in England. His tally of 30 goals in all competitions is currently only bettered by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero throughout the four divisions in England. His goals propelled Leeds United up the Championship table.
After the season rather fizzled out in the final month for Leeds, it seemed obvious that a lack of investment from the board in January had contributed to the team running out of steam and falling short of the play-offs. The lack of another centre forward to take the pressure of the shoulders of Chris Wood perhaps. A lack of goals coming from midfield also becoming a factor.
As Garry Monk confirmed he is to sit down and talk in-depth with co-owner Andrea Radrizzani, currently in talks to complete a 100% takeover of the club, about his future, investment will be one of the key components of the plan to move forward. Monk has stated he is happy to stay at Leeds United only if the board share his vision of how the club can progress.
The board have been made well aware, as the season came into its final stages and Monk’s contract wound down, just what the fans feel is of the utmost importance in the off-season. That is securing Garry Monk long-term. Every week whether at a sold out Elland Road, or a packed away end on the road, Garry Monk’s name has been sung so loudly and so passionately it would be difficult for anybody not to take note.
After years of feeling let down, taken for granted, and disgruntled with everything from happenings off the field to performances on it, Garry Monk has seemingly bonded the club and the fans once again. He has turned Elland Road into somewhat of a fortress again, Leeds lost only 5 of the 23 home games in the Championship this season conceding just 16 times in the process. Out of the top ten sides in the division only 2nd placed Brighton conceded less at home.
So despite missing out on the play-offs this time around, now is not the time to dwell on what might have been. It is time to do what is right and allow Garry Monk to improve on what he has begun to build at Leeds United this season. To let Monk walk away this summer after not agreeing to allow him to stay on as manager would be criminal. United have not finished as high in the division since the 2010/11 season. A series of mid table finishes before Monk’s arrival are enough proof of the job he has done already here and also serve as a warning to where the club could be again if his services were not retained.
Ultimately the disappointment of missing out on the play-offs this year could be forgiven if the right moves are made this summer. Starting with securing Garry Monk to a proper contract.