Professional football is a game of lines. Touchlines, goal-lines, defensive lines. Add to that: lines you do not cross. Mark that last one well, especially if you are a Leeds United manager under pressure (and is there any other sort?)
There are also things you can afford to lose, within reason. Football matches. Arguments with the owner (that’s probably the tactful thing to do). And there are things you cannot afford to lose, at any price. The respect and support of the fans. The respect and support of the local press who cover all aspects of the club.
In a car-crash of a radio interview with Adam Pope after today’s 0-1 home defeat to Huddersfield, Leeds manager Garry Monk crossed the line that separates professionalism from imprudent petulance. He is now in perilous territory, in danger of being turned upon by local press and fans alike. After what was really an abysmal interview performance, Garry Monk is bang to rights on a charge of lacking respect and professional calm. It’s a mistake that will not soon be forgotten, and one that will bear no repetition.
It’s easy to point at the fact that Monk is under pressure. But he is well paid to cope with that – and, not incidentally, to produce performances many times more convincing than his Leeds United team has been serving up. You can understand some early teething troubles from a new group of players. But to dismiss so contemptuously the worries and concerns outside the professional bubble of the football club – that passes understanding. It’s neither reasonable nor acceptable.
With Cellino’s criminal record of revolving-door recruitment, the last thing I want to do is advocate hasty change. But when your manager loses the plot like that, with a respected local journalist too, then you scratch your head and wonder how Steve Evans might do with this squad. On the basis of today’s post-match demeanour, I’m really not sure that Monk is fit for purpose. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, naturally.
Things have to change at Elland Road, or another bleak – possibly disastrous – season beckons. At this juncture, the question is not whether there be change, but how far-reaching that change should be. On the evidence of today, as well as the obvious need to get rid of and replace the owner, there may also be a need to review the coaching situation.
Being Leeds United manager is a tough ask. Many are found wanting. It may be that Garry Monk is showing signs that he’ll be just another who can’t cut it at Elland Road.