It’s not every season that Leeds United reach the second international break of the season with the same manager in situ as started the season. Well, it’s not every season under Massimo Cellino’s stewardship that they do, anyway.
In that regard, phase one of Garry Monk’s mission is complete. He flirted with the sack after an insipid start but this is, after all, a results business and results came good.
So, what then, is phase two of Monk’s mission? Dare we dream that he may even be in the Elland Road dugout come Christmas? It seems preposterous to say, but it is preposterous to envisage him lasting that long.
The Championship is a precarious league for even the best run and most well organised of clubs. Leeds United fall a million miles away from either category.
The problem for the middle ranking clubs in the division, of which Leeds surely is one, is that results can desert you at any moment. One minute you’ve won five of your last six going into an international break, the next you have back to back away fixtures at Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers with a home game against Wigan Athletic in between.
This, clearly, is where it can start to unravel. Defeats to Derby and Wolves and Monk will be back under the kosh with the visits of Newcastle United and Aston Villa as well as tricky away days at Norwich and Brighton to come in the lead up to December.
We can, however, dare to dream. Derby have been terrible, Wigan are there for the taking, Aston Villa are woeful and Brighton aren’t what they were last season (maybe…).
To further improve matters, Monk has instilled a functional style of play that is getting the best out of much maligned striker, Chris Wood and seen the keep one or two clean sheets – not something Leeds fans are used to seeing in recent years.
Centre back Pontus Jansson has become an instant fans’ favourite and Pablo Hernandez has added some occasional silk to an otherwise mundane midfield.
On the pitch, at least, things are starting to look settled.
As ever in recent times, it’s events off the pitch that will decide Monk’s future. Trying to predict Cellino’s moods is like trying to pick the winning lottery numbers. Two defeats on the spin and who knows what he will do?
Unfortunately, in the Championship, such runs of form are commonplace for the majority of sides at some stage. Does Monk curry enough favour with Massimo to be allowed such downturns in fortune?
This is the decisive element of Monk’s mission. We can dare to dream that he will still be there at Christmas. After all, if he is, it will be a sure sign that things, for once, are going well.