You normally have a gut feeling about what will happen between a club and a coach in Neil Redfearn’s position.
Last summer I was never in any doubt that Brian McDermott would be leaving Leeds United. He and Massimo Cellino didn’t seem to be warming to each other and it was no surprise when a deal was done for the club and Brian to go their separate ways.
It’s a bit different with Neil. Judging by comments made by him and Massimo over the weeks and months, their relationship appears to be that bit stronger. I’m not saying it’s perfect or exactly as it should be but you get the feeling that they’re quite happy in each other’s company.
In Neil’s time as head coach we’ve had ups and downs – a difficult period before Christmas and a tough finish to the season but some really good results in between. Good enough to keep us well clear of relegation, much to everyone’s relief.
There were points in that positive spell where we rode our luck but the performances picked up, the team started playing much better and ultimately we put points on the board. From a personal point of view, Neil will be happy with the job he’s done. He’s not had it easy in any respect.
What Massimo thinks, nobody knows apart from him. I really can’t call how this situation is going to pan out. The fact that there’s been no quick move to sort Neil’s contract makes you wonder if other plans are afoot but even so, I reckon the owner will be wary of casting Neil aside quickly and then realising he’s made a mistake.
It’s by far the biggest decision of the summer and, to my mind, everything hinges on the two of them sitting down, speaking their minds, seeing where the conversation takes them and then agreeing to either move forward together or to part company.
As much as Neil must want to keep the job and make a success of it, he’d admit himself that there’s absolutely no point in him continuing as head coach unless he and Massimo have a shared view on how things should work from here. That would be a waste of everyone’s time.
If they don’t see eye-to-eye or if they’ve got fundamentally different ideas, keeping Neil on would be a case of delaying the inevitable.
Football is the same as life in general – contentious issues always lead to fall-outs and the only way Leeds can ever be successful is if the whole club are singing from the same hymnsheet. A head coach and his owner have got to be like-minded.
That doesn’t mean Neil should be a yes-man or that Massimo should just allow his head coach to do whatever he wants. They’ll both have philosophies and principles and the crucial thing is that those ideas match. If they do, great. If they don’t then I can’t see anything other than Neil leaving and a new head coach coming in. It would be a shame for Neil but I don’t doubt that he’d want to work in an environment where his vision fits in with everyone else’s.
It’s a massively important situation and I hope we find out what’s happening very quickly. I’ve said this many times but the summer is never as long as it appears to be when the season ends.
Leeds have got around 10 weeks until pre-season and there’s plenty to be getting on with. Neil’s position isn’t certain and he’s on his own again after losing his assistant. On top of that, I believe we needed six new signings minimum to give us a chance of challenging next year.
When I look back on this season, I reach one immediate conclusion: that when all is said and done, the squad and the playing personnel at Leeds weren’t good enough for the Championship. They were good enough to stay in the Championship but never at the standard required to knock on the door of the top six.
It didn’t help that we made a bad start and experienced all the turmoil of sacking David Hockaday and Darko Milanic after only a handful of games in charge. I’d like to think that the head coach who starts next season will also finish it and I’d back us to finish higher up the league if that happens. But I still maintain that a manager or a head coach is only as good as the players he has to work with.
You’ve seen that at Watford this season. They’ve changed bosses repeatedly too but in the meantime they’d built up a very talented squad.
I’m not saying Slavisa Jokanovic deserves no credit because obviously he does but it couldn’t be said that Watford’s team was built by him.
As a club, they’ve been rewarded for recruiting well.
That’s the area where Leeds really need to hit the nail on the head this summer. Yes, we need a head coach who has the confidence of the club’s hierarchy and if Neil stays on then for the first time in a while we’ll actually have some continuity in that position. But when it comes down to it, players are what win you games. Players stick the ball in the net and keep it out at the other end. Over 46 games, the fact is that ours weren’t capable of competing at the top end of the Championship.
Next season I won’t be expecting miracles. I’m not suggesting that we should suddenly pluck the title out of the air. But the club have a very obvious challenge – to make sure we’re able to challenge next season.
Is Neil going to get the chance to make that happen? I don’t have a clue.
Only one person does.