Slowly but surely, you can feel a slight change in the winds up at LS11. Unbeaten in five, an EFL cup quarter final against the current Premier League leaders and into the top six for the first time for what seems like forever ago are just a few reasons why the club seems to be on the up.
Slowly, fans and players alike seem to be buying into Garry Monk’s philosophies and not only has this created a less poisonous environment around the club, it has seen performances rapidly improve.
It hasn’t been an easy road though. After the loss to Huddersfield, Monk and his players were questioned again and after his rather tetchy post-match interview, people started to doubt whether Monk would last. Since then, he has admitted he made mistakes with his tactics (which in itself is a brave thing to admit) and reverted back to his successful formula.
Ever since the lacklustre display against the Terriers, Leeds have gone unbeaten at Elland Road, suffering only two defeats, both of which were on the road to 1-0 score lines. Something just seems to have clicked in the last month or so, whether it’s players coming into form I.E. Chris Wood and Heidi Sacko or a more solid base starting with the centre backs, moving into the presence of Eunan O’Kane in the middle meaning we have more control of games. Either way, I think it’s fair to say Leeds are going into the international break high on confidence and fans counting down the days to the next game (which I for one can say hasn’t always been the case!)
Time will tell if the Whites can sustain their play off potential but I think fans will be happy just to see us being competitive week in week out! Too many times in recent memory our seasons have frizzled out by time the festive period was over and we started looking over our shoulders instead of over the horizon. Our squad is bound to be tested in the coming months but I can’t help but think we are better prepared for it, both mentally and physically.
For the first time in years our squad has two real leaders at the back in Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson and a real youthful mix of flair and energy along with more experienced, solid campaigners. Monk was very defensive of his young squad in the early weeks of the season and now you can understand why. Do you really think Ronaldo Vieira would have taken that shot on in the last minute against Norwich if Monk had publicly or privately b*llocked him beforehand? Monk is clearly telling the team to go express themselves and embrace what it means to play for Leeds. The celebrations at Norwich were fantastic and can only lift players to want to experience that feeling more often.
Right now it seems that the club is forming the kind of identity it has craved for so many years. Hard to beat, tough in the tackle, in your face but with the ability and youthful exuberance to change games. The kind of mentality David O’Leary created at his time at Elland Road for example. I’m not for one minute comparing this team to the team we had back then, all I’m saying is Monk is trying to build sometime here and at the minute, it seems to be working.
Success on the pitch also quietens all the controversy off it. The fact we havn’t heard from Mr Cellino for quite a while now can only be a good thing (for the club and himself). The best remedy to cure an ill football club is to win football matches, simple as that. Winning unites, players, the board, management and fans. Without the improvement in results and performances, I highly doubt the Newcastle game would have sold out, it’s a testament to what this team is doing currently.
Moving forward the key is not to over react should things start to go wrong. Newcastle is a tough fixture and one we could easily lose but with the boost of a sell-out, who’s to say we can’t get a result? Newcastle look nigh on unbeatable at home now and they are roared on by 50,000+ a week… that can only help them.
Moving back to Leeds, it’s important that we keep building on what we seem to be creating. I’m amazed that Monk has got the squad to gel this early if truth be told but will one season be enough time for him to achieve what every Leeds fan has craved since 2004? It’s hard to say. My only present worry is that Monk is only contracted until the end of the season, will one season by enough for Monk to deliver Premier League football? Will he only get one season? All questions which will be answered in time.
Reporter – Daniel Howard