COMMENT By Matt Farr
Leeds manager Garry Monk was spotted at Oakwell on Tuesday night as Championship rivals Barnsley took on Blackpool in their FA Cup third round replay.
Press Association journalist Jonathan Veal revealed on his Twitter account that Monk was on a scouting mission, with Barnsley and Leeds set to go head-to-head in the league on Saturday.
However, Monk may also be keeping a closer eye on several Barnsley players in particular, as he continues his search for January reinforcements.
Football Insider identifies three players that Monk could be scouting on Tuesday night:
Perhaps the most likely candidate to catch Monk’s gaze on Tuesday is midfielder Conor Hourihane. The 25-year-old has been in sensational form for Barnsley this season, following a prolific campaign in League One last term.
Since the start of last season, the Republic of Ireland midfielder has accumulated 16 goals and 29 assists from 79 appearances in all competitions.
Monk and Leeds could do with that kind of return in their midfield over the remainder of the season, as they do not have a prolific goalscoring midfielder within their own ranks – particularly in a more central role.
Hourihane could be available for a reasonable price, and that could play into Leeds’ favour. Promotion rivals Aston Villa are believed to have made a £1million bid for his services last week, with Sheffield Wednesday also interested.
Despite his key player status at Oakwell, Hourihane is widely expected to be leaving the club before the end of the season, as there is just six months left to run on his contract.
If Monk likes what he sees from Hourihane against Blackpool, then he should not hesitate to match Aston Villa’s bid and try to prize him away from Barnsley.
Leeds’ premier goalscorer Chris Wood has been phenomenal this season, but if he were to be ruled out for an extended period of time, Monk would have few options to turn to.
Therefore, Monk could be keeping tabs on Marley Watkins. The 26-year-old, who can play as a winger or as a centre-forward, has contributed six goals and seven assists from 24 games this season, and could be an important asset to Leeds.
He offers flexibility, as he could both cover Wood up-front, as well as playing a regular first-team role as a winger.
On the contrary, he does have very little Championship experience – and zero Premier League experience – but he does look like a player that can perform consistently at this level.
Watkins was named on the Barnsley bench for the tie with Blackpool, but could be called upon if things don’t go to plan.
Monk is looking for defensive reinforcements this month, with the recent suspension to Pontus Jansson and injuries to Charlie Taylor and Liam Cooper highlighting the need for at least another defender.
Leeds were forced to operate with Luke Ayling and Kyle Bartley at the centre of defence against Derby on Friday, while Lewie Coyle and Gaetano Berardi were the two full-backs.
In fairness, they did well to keep Derby at bay earning themselves a clean-sheet, but it is not a long-term solution. To add further depth to their ranks, Monk could be looking into a potential move for Barnsley defender James Bree.
The 19-year-old has already established himself as a first-team regular at Oakwell, making 20 appearances in all competitions this season, and Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom will prefer to keep him at the club.
However, Bree could be a decent addition at Elland Road this month, and his tremendous potential has seen him compared with former Barnsley youngster John Stones.
In other Leeds transfer news, Leeds are planning a triple transfer swoop as three unnamed players go on trial.