Neil Redfearn believes Leeds United’s form in the second half of this season has given the club a viable base to build on next term and says they must commit to planning their future around the young core in his team.
United’s head coach wants Leeds to aim for a top-10 finish during the rest of the Championship term and he reminded his players that they had “something to play for” last night ahead of a summer in which the club’s squad will undergo more change.
Leeds looked destined for a frantic battle against relegation at Christmas, sitting in 21st place at the turn of the year, but they have left the bottom three behind by taking 20 points from their last 11 games.
Redfearn’s own future at Elland Road is unclear with United still to decide if they will keep him and his assistant, Steve Thompson, in place next season but the 49-year-old claimed Leeds were now in a position to avoid another massive overhaul at the end of this campaign.
Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds 11 months ago led to a busy summer transfer window, with a total of 15 new players arriving. A number of those signings, including Brazilian midfielder Adryan, are entering the latter stages of long-term loans at Elland Road.
“You’ve always got things to prove and every time you go out there you’re judged,” Redfearn said. “Supporters judge you, managers judge you. You’ve always got something to play for and it’s
important that you give a good account of yourself.
“If we can get ourselves into the top 10 then we can push on from there. We’ve still got targets. We want to hit the ground running next season and we want to finish well this season. The lads have got the bit between their teeth at the moment.”
United’s post-Christmas resurgence has been underpinned by the form of four of their academy products, and the club’s midfield against Ipswich Town on Wednesday –made up of Sam Byram, Lewis Cook, Luke Murphy, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor – had an average age of just 21.
Asked if his squad had a good spine in it or whether it needed a large amount of work, Redfearn said: “I think both. There’s definitely a good base. We’ve seen that.
“The advent of the young players coming in is there for everyone to see. When they came in I knew what they were capable of but they’ve surpassed even my expectations.
“Your younger players are your grounding for next season. The average age of the lads who’ve been playing by and large recently has been about 23 and these players are a season better off now. That’s a season of progress.
“If you’re blooding young players and getting to grips with the division, they’re going to be better next season. They’re going to be better for it and that’s the basis of building. It (the club) has to be built around the youth.”