3G? I DON’T CARE IF IT’S CONCRETE!
LEEDS boss Garry Monk has warned his players not to use Sutton’s plastic pitch as an excuse if they fall victim to a slaying in today’s televised clash.
Sutton, the lowest-ranked side remaining in the competition, beat ten-man Wimbledon 3-1 in a replay to reach the fourth round for the first time since 1989.
After the initial 0-0 draw at Gander Green Lane, Dons boss Neal Ardley admitted the U’s 3G surface had been a “massive factor” in the home side’s favour.
But Monk’s in-form Whites have spent the week training on synthetic grass and the former Swansea defender insists you won’t here complaints from anyone in a white shirt.
“I don’t care if it’s 4G, 3G, grass or concrete,” said Monk, whose side beat Cambridge 2-1 at the Abbey in round three. “We’d still have the same mentality and the same approach.
“It’s a different surface and yes, that poses a challenge. But we’re not a team who make excuses, before or after the game. We know what to expect and we’re prepared.
“We’re lucky at Thorp Arch. We have a facility with an artificial pitch so we’ve been preparing ourselves on that surface. We’d done what we can to mimic the environment.
“Remember, we faced a game against Cambridge where the game was very wet and muddy and that can be just as much of a leveller.
“But we prepared the same way – no detail left out, focus on ourselves. Instead of seeing problems, let’s look at the pitch and see how we can use it to our advantage.”
Sutton – conquerors of Coventry in 1989 – have actually faced Leeds at this stage of the FA Cup before, going down 6-0 to Don Revie’s fearsome side.
Given Leeds’ recent surge to third in the Championship, plenty of pundits are anticipating similar carnage this afternoon – but Monk’s players are not among them.
“We’re not stupid,” added Monk. “We don’t presume anything because presuming can lead you into a trap. We stay focussed, respect every opponent. We see it as a good opportunity to progress, of course. But they will look at it exactly the same way. Adrenaline, emotions – those things can enhance any team’s performance and we’ve got to be wary of that.
“I know the manager, Paul Doswell, very well from our time together at Southampton. We’ve watched Sutton and they’ve done terrifically well. They’re a good side.
“It’s the same as we faced in the last round, really. Potentially a difficult game but one that hinges on us impose our way of playing, our quality. If we do that to the levels we’ve been reaching recently, we should be OK.”
With a game against Blackburn on Tuesday, Monk is likely to ring several changes, and has confirmed that stricken teenager Mallik Wilks will feature in the matchday squad.
Wilks’ brother, Raheem, was shot dead in a Leeds barbershop on Thursday in what police suspect was “targeted attack”. The club were prepared to give the midfielder time to grieve but he has asked to play. “I spoke to Malik,” said Monk. “He’s suffering as a person. We’re suffering as a club. The focus now is on on supporting him, making sure he’s treated in the right way. “It’s a very difficult situation for him, a very tough time. The only good thing for him is that he has his football to focus on. “The plan was always for him to be involved. That doesn’t change. I’ve spoken to him and he feels the same way, which is great.”
LAST ROUND: Sutton held AFC Wimbledon on their plastic pitch before winning the replay
RESPECT: Garry Monk isn’t taking Sutton United for granted