Leeds boss Monk confident best is still yet to come

Leeds United's top scorer Chris Wood could return to action at Deepdale
Leeds United's top scorer Chris Wood could return to action at Deepdale
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Garry Monk says his Leeds United squad are ahead of schedule having won seven of their last nine games.

The Whites sit fifth in the Championship table ahead of the trip to Preston North End on Boxing Day after enduring a shaky start to the season that led to speculation about Monk’s future.

Only leaders Newcastle United and second-placed Brighton have accumulated more points over the last 16 games however with United’s head coach insisting the best is still to come.

“I think we are ahead of schedule,” he said.

“We are in a good way and we want to get better.

“The group want to get better and they are not happy with winning that game (against Brentford on Saturday) in terms of wanting to get a better performance out of themselves.

“You could hear it in the changing room afterwards and that’s a good sign.

“It’s good to hear them feeling like that and talking like that.

“There’s a lot of improvements to go and we’re going to keep working as hard as we can.”

While focusing on further improvements Monk isn’t paying too much attention to his side’s lofty league position.

“We are not too worried about where we are in the league,” he said.

“It’s great that we are where we are, it shows we are doing something right as a team, but our main fight is for the three points that are ahead of us.

“Everyone is winning I suppose and that’s why it is most important to concentrate on yourself.

“We can’t get too worried about who’s winning where and what, all you have got to do is fight for your three points and do it as hard and as best as possible.

“All I care about is the improvement of the team and the development of this team.

“They are going through loads of scenarios, especially in recent months, that have had to test them and push them and put them in scenarios that a lot of the young players have not experienced.

“They are coming through it which is good to see.

“That’s really the only thing I focus on.”

Monk could welcome back top scorer Chris Wood for the trip to Deepdale on Boxing Day.

The 14-goal striker is expected to be in contention after sitting out the Whites’ 1-0 over Brentford last time out.

The New Zealander has had scans on a hamstring injury which alleviated fears of any long-term damage.

United struggled up front without Wood as Monk left Souleymane Doukara to lead the line alone but a 89th-minute header from defender Kyle Bartley salvaged three points from a tight match.

Pablo Hernandez could also return from his hamstring problem but there is a doubt over left back Charlie Taylor who was forced off in the second half of the Brentford win with an Achilles injury.

Captain Liam Bridcutt has only recently returned from a three-month lay-off after breaking a bone in his foot and right back Lewie Coyle is nearing a return from a knee injury.

“It would be nice to get a few players out of the injury room and back into the squad and hopefully we can do that because we are going to need everyone,” Monk said.

“But all in all, in this period that we have just had I think the players have done very well and they deserve a lot of credit.”