Top six Leeds United aiming to keep focus

Leeds United players show their togetherness as they go into a huddle before kick-off against Reading. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Leeds United players show their togetherness as they go into a huddle before kick-off against Reading. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Off the field distractions are rearing their head again at Leeds United, but head coach Garry Monk has vowed to make it business as usual on it.

Just when things were beginning to look up for the Elland Road club with attendances on the up and the side not only getting into the top six, but staying there, they were hit by the news last Friday that Massimo Cellino was being suspended from being the owner for 18 months.

The FA found the Italian guilty of sanctioning an illegal payment during striker Ross McCormack’s move from Leeds to Fulham in 2014 and although he intends to appeal the ban – plus fines of £250,000 imposed on him and Leeds – the FA has ordered him to stand down from United’s board on February 1, meaning he would not be able to have any control at Elland Road until August 2018.

It may speed up Cellino’s desire to end his controversial time in Leeds with talks currently taking place with Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani over a deal to buy 50 per cent of Cellino’s stake. This could lead to a possible eventual full takeover, but the uncertainty over any of it could leave the club without leadership at the top for a spell, which could be vital at a time when progress is being made on the pitch.

Head coach Monk insisted the ownership issues were not his concern at this time.

He said: “I respect the owner and I respect the club,.

“It’s not really for me to get into. It’s for the club to deal with.”

Monk, meanwhile, has admitted he has spoken to his employers about strengthening his squad when the next transfer window opens next month.

He added: “We’re not a big squad as it is and we’re already having those bumps and bruises. It’s a tough league the Championship, it’s relentless.

“The lads have put in a lot of physical effort into all the games, so I think the squad does need to be helped a bit.

“But it will only be players who can help the squad, it has got to be the right one to keep the level of the quality or even push the quality even higher.”

Leeds have to go with the players they have for now with a rare 3pm Saturday game this week, at home to Brentford.

Kalvin Phillips will be available again after sitting out last night’s game against Reading through the one match suspension he picked up for his red card against Brighton and he is likely to go straight back in, but faces competition from fit again Liam Bridcutt, who played an hour after coming on as substitute against Reading.

Bridcutt’s return will add valuable experience to a youthful central midfield area, but in his absence Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira have flourished and taken their extended chance well with the latter again delivering a strong display, particularly in the closing stages, against Reading.

After his best performance for some time Stuart Dallas should expect to retain his place, but up front there is a worry about key man Chris Wood after he went off with a hamstring injury.

It is not thought to be serious, but whether he can recover quickly in time for Saturday must be in some doubt.

With back-up forward Marcus Antonsson also missing after suffering a back spasm in training the Reading game showed how thin on the ground United are for forwards, but teenage Chapeltown striker Malik Wilks is close to being ready according to the head coach and he was given a place on the bench, although he did not get on.