Is anyone safe under Massimo Cellino? You wonder sometimes. Very few people seem to stick at Leeds United and Darko Milanic’s feet barely touch the ground. Head coach number two, gone already.
The odds on Neil Redfearn becoming the third sacking this season won’t be generous. Cellino has a reputation and in the circumstances you’re always waiting for the next dismissal. But there’s something different about Redfearn; something which makes me think that this appointment might just work.
For starters he’s gone through the past six months without any serious run-ins with Cellino. That tells you something about how much Cellino respects him and how much he values his work. Okay, they’ve had a disagreement about Redfearn’s wages and contract this week but that’s not so unusual. I’ve been in similar negotiations myself and no-one wants to give too much away. Everyone’s looking for the right deal. With any luck they’ll shake hands soon enough and the club can get on with the season again. It’s no secret that Redfearn’s a good mate of mine so I’m chuffed for him and I wish him well. And yes, I’m a bit apprehensive too. He’s taken a risk by going for the head coach’s job and I’ll be sorry if he ever comes to regret it.
It’s said that he and Cellino have an agreement whereby Redfearn will go back to the job of academy manager if the head coach’s role doesn’t work out. That’s fine in principle but it’s not an exact science. As any manager or a head coach will tell you, relationships tend to break down in the weeks before a sacking. It’s highly unusual for a head coach to lose his job with everyone singing his praises. More often than not, it all ends with a bit of bad feeling and bad blood.
In fairness to Redfearn, he’s a top bloke and someone who’ll keep his dignity intact but I doubt there’s any thought in his head of going back to the academy job. It might be a safety net but he won’t want to use it or find out how safe it actually is. He’s in the top job now and, like anyone with his ambition, that’s where he’ll want to stay.
I’ve no concern at all about Redfearn’s technical talent or his ability to do the job. He was excellent as caretaker earlier in the season and I thought he did well enough in that spell to merit a longer opportunity.
He’s worked in the academy for about six years now and you can tell from the quality of the kids coming through that he knows what makes a good footballer. The advantage for Leeds, too, is that he doesn’t need to learn about the club or to adjust to new surroundings.
Darko Milanic came in with eight league games gone and the season was still at an early stage back then. But Cardiff tomorrow is fixture number 15 and the club can’t afford another spell of teething problems and mediocre results. Time’s ticking on. To me, the success of Redfearn’s appointment depends entirely on one thing – his relationship with Cellino. Despite what’s gone on this week, it seems from the outside like they get on as well as anyone gets on with Cellino. They seem to see the good in each other and it sounds like Cellino trusts Redfearn which, let’s be honest, it a pretty fundamental starting point.
It’s clear enough that Cellino likes to be involved in absolutely everything at the club. Micro-management, people call it. He owns the club so he can do as he pleases but I don’t think the squad here will ever properly thrive until there’s a head coach in place with the authority and the freedom to do exactly as he pleases.
I don’t mean that Cellino should have no input or no day-to-day contact with Redfearn. He’s obviously a football nut and someone who breathes the game. But it’s a two-way thing – show confidence and trust in your head coach and you’ll get the best out of him. Create a healthy working environment and the results should speak for themselves.
That, I feel, is the reality with Redfearn. Left to get on with it, I’d back him to be a success at Leeds. Given carte blanche to run things his way, I think he’ll bring the season under control. He won’t be looking for immunity from criticism or immunity from Cellino’s scrutiny. He’ll just want a chance to get on with the job without unnecessary pressure or interference.
That’s all any boss wants.