It has been nice that we’ve been able to avoid certain topics this season; often we spend so much time debating the intentions of a certain Italian megalomaniac that footballing matters come an unhappy second. Though while we’ve been able to focus on the sport more than the business, there are still common annoyances bleeding through into this year that we’ve been unable to escape. Primarily the notion of contracts and planning for the future.
I can’t think of many other football clubs that secretly extend contracts for players. Often this is a cause for celebration and another excuse to keep the PR machine turning, selling shirts and tickets whilst looking like there’s a deliberate plan behind the actions. Though when we find out that Green and Doukara’s contracts were extended earlier this year to zero fanfare, it made many fan furrow their brow with confusion. Why would a club elect to do this? I appreciate that the reaction to Doukara’s extension would be “mixed”, Green’s would be fairly unanimously positive wouldn’t it? Very unusual.
Then comes the tired old question of “what happens to Garry Monk when the season ends?”. Yet again the club are in a weak position contractually (as we were with Byram, Cook and now Taylor), meaning Monk is not attached to a fixed term deal. His current contract expires at the end of the season and there is an option to extend this by another year – but this would require both parties to agree to do so. Presumably this would be an extension on his current terms rather than an improved deal. Either way, that’s how the land lies and it appears no ground has been broken in regards to resolving the uncertainty.
Monk on whether contract talks will wait till end of season: "You'd need to ask the club, I can't speak for them. I'm focused on football."
— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) April 6, 2017
No developments with Monk's contract. Says the club are still to come to him for talks but says he's concentrated on the remaining games.
— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) April 6, 2017
This does seem at-odds with the press release the club elected to put out in mid-January which specifically cited that they were committed to securing Monk to a longer deal:
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) January 14, 2017
Not that I’m one to point fingers or call people names, but I’d expect there’s a degree of lying gone on somewhere, considering the man himself says that there’s been no contact from the club in this regard. Garry is a very professional and dignified individual so obviously he won’t throw careless statements out into the press, he continues to talk about how the focus at Leeds is on the pitch, on the next game and the 5 that follow it.
The problem with success is that it’s not something Leeds are really geared up for. Cellino’s reign (and by proxy, Radrizzani’s so far) is based around short-termism. 12 month deals (falsely labelled as “rolling contracts”) are the norm for head coaches, since Cellino realised that offering people like Milanic contracts spanning years costs him money when he elects to roll the dice again after only a handful of games. Since Redfearn was unceremoniously bundled out of the back-door in order to bring in Uwe Rosler (who is doing an excellent job elsewhere, as it goes), short-term deals have been the way Leeds have operated.
Only… It doesn’t really work. Good people will always climb upwards, be they players or coaching staff. Long contracts act as a financial insurance against losing key assets for very little, yet this is something Leeds are horrendous at. Doukara may have another year to go on his deal, but Taylor doesn’t. Monk and Pep were brought in on 12 month contracts and I understand the owner’s hesitancy at offering longer deals to “unproven” entities, but the second it was clear that this was a working formula for success they should have operated in a sensible manner and tied them down.
Steve Evans fell foul of this, too, having done an acceptable job (which did, against my personal feelings honestly justify a second season in charge). But the conversations had about his contract all felt the same as the inevitable ones we’ve having about Monk now. Let me demonstrate this point:
From McDermott's presser, still no talks with Cellino yet, no talks about his future and no retained list.
— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) May 1, 2014
Redfearn says he's had no contact about when talks over his future will take place. "I’d expect next week we’ll sit down and chat."
— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) May 2, 2015
The club should be braver, bolder and more forward-thinking than to crawl towards the end of the season without a structure for the following year in place. It’s a tired old adage that you need to “plan for next season”, but it’s true, you legitimately do. Running towards the end of the campaign with public uncertainty about the future of your entire coaching staff is not the kind of thing success is built from. I’m sure then players would like to know what awaits them (in this league or not). It’s a powerful motivator (and by contrast, demotivator) to be kept in the dark, to be unsure.
Leeds may well be poised to lose Garry Monk and while I appreciate that it takes both parties to agree to continue working together, the fact that the public statement is that both parties haven’t even discussed it makes me anxious. Maybe it is dependent on gaining promotion (or more likely, Monk needing assurances on investment and players). There certainly won’t be any shortage of suitors should he wish to move on, and that should make us even more worried.