I try to be as patient and as open-minded as possible but there are times when I wonder if Leeds United are on a ‘suicide mission’.
Very few clubs have an easy life but it often feels like Leeds are hell bent on causing themselves problems. A few weeks ago the playing side of the club was neat and tidy and going well. All of a sudden it’s out of sorts again, and for one very obvious reason.
I don’t know the ins and outs of the situation regarding Steve Thompson – I’d like to know who actually knows what’s really happened – but it would take a very naive mind to believe that his suspension has had no effect on the last four results.
That decision blatantly broke the harmony and momentum of the playing squad. Perhaps it was justified and maybe there’s a genuine reason why Thompson’s been sidelined but no-one seems to be aware of one, and Neil Redfearn least of all.
Thompson is, or was, Neil’s right-hand man. Neil fought hard to bring him in and you can tell from the way he speaks about him that they work very well together.
From what I know of Steve, he’s an ideal number two. He’s a loyal bloke but he’s the opposite of a yes-man, and a yes-man is the last thing you need as a manager.
It’s tempting when you’re in overall charge to surround yourself with people who’ll tell you you’re brilliant and agree with everything you say but it doesn’t do you much good in the long run.
I preferred an assistant who would speak his mind, give me an opinion and, above all else, tell me when I was getting things wrong. Management is intense and stressful and there are times when you struggle to see what’s in front of your eyes. I don’t doubt for a minute that having a different voice in the dressing room at Leeds did Neil a lot of favours.
The damning thing about Thompson’s suspension – or the most damning thing – is that Neil wasn’t warned about it and the reasons weren’t explained to him. To my mind, that’s very wrong. I accept that the club might not be able to go into minute detail but if they had any respect for Neil or if they wanted to keep him on side, they’d have given him an explanation for why they felt they had to act.
I can only hope for the club’s sake that there was a good reason, because losing Thompson has done the squad no good at all. I know for a fact that a lot of the players liked Steve. Some of them, like Luke Murphy, benefited from the shot in the arm he gave them. Back when the last international break arrived the team must have felt like everything was settled. The form was good and the coaching staff were well in control. But once again the situation’s been allowed to get out of hand.
Where Massimo Cellino’s concerned – and no-one can predict his next move – he really needs to do something quickly. Assuming he’s sticking around for any length of time, he has to get a grip and start showing signs of a clear plan.
If he gets rid of Neil then that’ll be a very harsh decision but equally it’s his decision to make.
But if he lets Neil go and then twiddles his thumbs for a bit, I reckon he’ll be faced with a volatile and disillusioned set of supporters.
Fair enough, he’s been banned from running the club for a while but he’ll be allowed to take charge again in a couple of weeks and you’d like to think he’s spent the past few months putting a strategy together.
As frustrated as the ban must have been for him, he’s had the opportunity to get himself ready for the summer – and thanks to the performance of the coaching staff and the players, he hasn’t had to worry about relegation for a while.
I still stand by the view I’ve been giving in this column for a while: Neil Redfearn’s done a good job in difficult circumstances and he’s earned the right to have a proper go next season.
In the whole of Cellino’s time as owner, no coach has performed better than him.
No coach has looked more comfortable in the job than him.
The club have to see that, surely.
It looks like a no-brainer to me – but when do Leeds ever take the easy route?