You can tell that Neil Redfearn is keeping his powder dry at the moment and in fairness to him, why wouldn’t he?
He’s a really good mate of mine but I honestly don’t know if he wants to be Leeds United’s next head coach. It’s entirely his business and, even then, the decision won’t be down to him.
Caretakers usually feel their way into a job. It’s pointless to start out by telling people that you want to make the position your own. Lose a couple of games and you look a bit stupid. Lose out to another candidate and the new boss might see you as a bit of a threat.
I suppose I’m biased because I know Neil well but I wouldn’t be worried about him taking the head coach’s job on. As a bloke, he’s extremely cool under pressure – and I say that having watched him in the most pressurised of circumstances.
A lot of people will remember him scoring the injury-time penalty that won Oldham promotion and the second division title in 1991. We were playing Sheffield Wednesday and it was basically the last kick of the season.
It was everything on one strike of the ball. As soon as he stepped up, we knew he was scoring. You could see it in his eyes and in his body language.
Neil was an excellent player in his time but he’d agree with me that playing and managing are two different things. One of the reasons why some top players don’t go very far in management is because one doesn’t automatically set you up for the other.
It’s true as well that switching from coaching academy kids to coaching senior pros needs a change of tack.
With kids, you’re basically teaching them about the game – the fundamental aspects of being a good footballer and a good professional.
You do get egos and attitudes at that age but you don’t really have to deal with difficult dressing rooms or player power, for want of a better phrase.
Senior players have been through that process. They’ve done the hard yards and they’ve made the breakthrough.
They can still learn things and they can still be taught but you’re not dangling the carrot of a career in front of them anymore.
As a manager (or a head coach) you focus on ethos, organisation and man-management. And results start to have a far bigger impact on your reputation and the security of your job.
Security. They say there’s no such thing as security in football but as with most things, it’s all relative. An academy role is likely to keep you in work for longer than a first-team job and you wonder if Neil is perfectly happy where he is. He’s massively passionate about the kids at Leeds and he’s doing a cracking job with them.
For a few reasons, I think it would be tough for him to let that go.
Another good friend of mine, Tony Philliskirk, has been in charge of the youth team system at Oldham for a long time. He took the job on while I was manager there. When Iain Dowie went down to Crystal Palace, he tried to take Tony with him as his number two. It would have been a good move and a great job but Tony loved what he was doing and chose to stay at Oldham. It’s what suited him best.
Then again, maybe a few weeks with the first team has given Redders the bug. I had a great time running the academy at Leeds and after that I worked with the youngsters at Barnsley. One day, Paul Hart – Barnsley’s manager at the time – asked me to be his assistant but told me that he’d understand if I preferred the security of running the academy. I appreciate his honesty but the truth was that I was itching to get involved in first-team football again. I found it impossible to resist.
A fortnight ago, when Leeds sacked David Hockaday, I assumed that Redders would lack the panache or the profile Massimo Cellino was looking for in his next head coach. I thought Cellino would go looking for a name in lights.
But we’ve had no movement so you start to question that. You also see things bubbling up between Cellino and the Football League again and that makes me ask whether giving Redfearn a chance might suddenly suit him now – especially if Cellino thinks there’s a threat to his ownership.
In some ways it surprises me that we don’t have a decision on the head coach yet. But the way things are at Leeds, in some ways it doesn’t. It does needs sorting out but I’d be more concerned if the club didn’t have someone like Neil to fill in as caretaker. He’s got big shoulders and a safe pair of hands. With him, I wouldn’t rule anything out.