MY CALL: Neil Redfearn says both Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook’s long-term interests were protected by not playing for England. Leon Wobschall reports.
YOUR time will come – that is the message from Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn to young duo Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt after both were pulled out of international duty this week.
York-born Cook, 17, a revelation this season for United, had been called up for England’s Under-18 friendly double-header in Poland, the first game being scheduled for today and the other for Monday.
Doncaster lad Mowatt, who turns 20 in February, was named in Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-20 squad for Wednesday’s clash with Canada at Bournemouth and Monday’s friendly with Portugal in Coimbra.
But after speaking with Under-18 coach Neil Dewsnip, Under-20 boss Boothroyd and Under-21 head coach Gareth Southgate, Redfearn negotiated the pair’s release from international duty, with the United head coach mindful of their growing workload.
Both teenagers understood Redfearn’s reasoning, according to the 49-year-old, who has been instrumental in the development of their young careers so far.
Redfearn said: “They were both fine. It is part of being professional; getting the rest in and training at the right times and having the games at the right times.
“They will play for their country, there’s no two ways about that in years to come.
“But we have just got to make sure that we do it right now.”
Redfearn says that Dewsnip, Boothroyd and Southgate were all sympathetic to his position and desire to protect Cook and Mowatt from overexposure.
Unlike virtually everyone else in both the Under-20s an Under-18s, the pair are already first-team regulars at Championship level, where the itinerary can often be exacting.
Ahead of the international break, Leeds had played six matches in 22 days since the previous one ended, starting with the derby visit to Rotherham United on October 17.
Mowatt had started every one of those matches, while Cook lined up in five of them and came off the bench in the other match, a 1-1 draw at Norwich City back on October 21.
It is statistics like that which have been noticed by Redfearn, keen that the management of two players who are likely to be big players for Leeds in the short, medium and long-term is spot on and handled responsibly and in the correct manner.
He added: “Regarding Lewis, I spoke to Neil Dewsnip, the England Under-18 coach and said: ‘Look, he is the only one in your squad who is playing first-team football.’
“I basically said that Lewis had made a big impact and that he does not need these extra games at this moment in time when he could be resting or training with us.
“And to be fair, he (Dewsnip) was as good as gold about it.
“I spoke to Gareth Southgate as well, having played with him at Crystal Palace and he is someone I know well and I also spoke with Aidy Boothroyd about Alex and said that it would be fine for him to be around the squad for a few days, but that then I want him resting.
“Alex is another one I don’t want playing games because he is another one who is playing a lot of football. We have a duty of care that we should never forget as these players are 17 and 19.
“If we do it right this time, then further down the line, both England and Leeds United will benefit and that is how I look at it.”