TOP SIDE: The United caretaker boss says tonight’s opponents are the best footballing side in the division. Leon Wobschall reports.
ON the merits of tonight’s opponents Bournemouth, Neil Redfearn is unequivocal.
The Leeds United caretaker head coach rates Eddie Howe’s side as ‘the best footballing team in the division.’ High praise indeed and despite the disparity in size between the two clubs who lock horns on the south coast this evening, Redfearn feels United must aspire to be like the Cherries, on the style front at least.
On that score, it is early days for United, whose attempts to cultivate a pleasing-on-the-eye passing persona and considered brand of possession football is still a work in progress.
Finding a cutting edge to ensure Leeds don’t float like a butterfly and ultimately sting like one is one obvious item on the to-do list, but by and large, supporters are warming to the style change.
It will be tested against a side Redfearn considers to be pass masters tonight, but he expects it to be much more of a fair footballing fight after Leeds were outclassed and outfought in a wretched 4-1 battering at the Goldsands Stadium on March 25.
Redfearn said: “To be fair, I just think they have got a way of playing and a philosophy that they stick to. I think whatever happens, that always runs through what they do – you can see that.
“I think they have got it going.
“Fair play to them. I went down there last year and to be honest, they took us apart really. It was four and it could have been far more.
“They play good football and are prepared to pass it and play out from the back and deal with the ball in tight areas. So it will be tough.
“Hopefully, it should be more of a contest because we are trying to do something similar, to be honest.
“We want to work with the ball and try and play out from the back and work it through the phases and be controlling in what we do. We want a more measured approach; I think it has helped us in our last few games, if I am honest.
“It is at a real early stage of its development. The fact of the matter is it is going to be two steps forward and one back for a while and in any case, that would have been the way as we have brought so many signings in and the young guys are integrating.
“It is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. I just think the signs have been really encouraging.
“The players are starting to be really comfortable with the ball, you can see that and it is something that is natural to them.
“There is no point lumping it up the pitch if we haven’t got the players to do it. We have got the players to pass it. So we need to pass it and I think they have taken to it really well.”
Patience and increased care and attention to ball retention have been noticeable traits of the last two games against Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers and while chances have not exactly been plentiful, fans have stuck by their side’s considered efforts under Redfearn, something which the Yorkshireman has appreciated.
He added: “They were fantastic at Birmingham. They kept with us.
“We passed and played quite well, without looking like scoring in the first half and it can be frustrating for supporters. But as daft as it seems, it was quite measured and kept us in the game.
“In the second half, when we turned up the heat a little bit, the fans got right behind us and it helped.
“You could see Birmingham wobbling and a lot of that was down to the supporters and the noise they generated when we started to get on top.
“It (passing football) takes time to get used to. But once it gets up and running, and they can see the benefits of it and see we are trying to play good football and be controlled and measured in what we do, I think they will see the benefits of it.”
Whoever Redfearn hands over the reins to when he takes up his full-time post again running the academy can rest assured that he will have a willing, diligent and professional group of players encompassing a number of nationalities to work with at Thorp Arch.
The vibe is good and that was clear for all to see during training ahead of Redfearn addressing the press yesterday and the caretaker boss could not have been more pleased with their response to him in the work place.
Even it has taken one of the vast number of new signings in Guiseppe Bellusci quite a while to crack out a smile!
Redfearn quipped: “He does not let on much; but he has started smiling, which is a good thing.
“It took us two weeks to get him to start smiling!
“But (seriously) he’s a good lad and they all work hard in training. His attitude in training has been first class.
“They are all buying into it in and they have got to take a lot of credit for that because it is perhaps new and something a bit different.
“They have got to take responsibility because I am making them take responsibility and I think it is a big thing if they are going to successful and go on and win things.
“If they are to achieve the things we want them to at Leeds United, then they have got to start taking it.”
While the likes of teenagers Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook are stepping up to the plate, two more of United’s young talents were handed a maiden chance to impress in yesterday’s development squad game against Barnsley, with both Brian Montenegro and Dario Del Fabro making their first appearances for the club after receiving international clearance.
Paraguayan striker Montenegro, 21, on a season-long loan from Nacional, netted in the 3-1 win over the Reds with current Italy U19 defender Del Fabro, brought in on a year’s loan from Cagliari, also starting, to begin their United adventures in earnest.
Redfearn said: “It is important these lads get to play with our kids and good young pros as well and then we can see where their level is.
“They are signings and we have made a lot of them, but they are still young guys and as regards experience, they have not got much.
“They have had just bits and bats and are only young in terms of first-team football. We have to see where they are at.
“We have got to let them feel at home as well in their surroundings and what they are doing.”