Neil Redfearn admitted he was in the midst of a “tough gig” at Leeds United as he looked for an end to the club’s winless streak against the backdrop of doubt surrounding Massimo Cellino.
Redfearn reflected on his exacting spell as head coach at Elland Road with the club turning their attention to tomorrow’s game against Birmingham City and a crucial moment in Cellino’s reign as United owner.
Cellino took his fight against Football League disqualification to appeal yesterday, challenging a ruling from the governing body late last year which banned him from running Leeds.
The League’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) – made up of QC Tim Kerr and Football League board members Greg Clarke and Richard Bowker – heard submissions from Cellino’s legal team in London and are expected to announce their decision early next week.
Cellino, who was disqualified on December 1 over a conviction for tax evasion but has remained as a Leeds director pending the outcome of his appeal, will serve a ban of around 70 days if the PCC finds against him.
Disqualification would force the Italian to cut his ties with United in the short term and potentially raise the pressure on him to sell his 75 per cent stake in the club, with other charges of tax evasion awaiting him in Italy.
Cellino attended yesterday hearing alongside his legal representatives. Shaun Harvey, the League’s chief executive and a former CEO at Elland Road, also sat through the appeal.
The uncertainty hanging over Cellino comes at a time when Leeds are 21st in the Championship and fighting to avoid relegation to League One, a division they spent three seasons in between 2007 and 2010.
United meet Birmingham at Elland Road tomorrow seeking a first league win in seven games.
Redfearn, who took charge as head coach on November 1 and has accrued nine points from 11 league matches, said: “There’s a lot going off here. You could definitely say that.
“We’ve picked up some points but it’s a big task here because in the 10 games where I wasn’t in charge, we only took six points. I keep reminding people of that but it’s important to understand it’s a tough gig when you’re playing catch-up.
“The redeeming factor is that the stuff I’m doing through the week, and in general I’ve seen a difference here. I saw the games before I was in charge and I saw some of them in Darko (Milanic’s) time as head coach. I think we’re getting better.
“By and large we’re playing better. We’ve had the odd blip but there are only a couple of sides who’ve taken us to town.”
Redfearn denied that the doubt about Cellino’s future as owner – and the potential implications for a club who were in severe financial trouble when he took control from Gulf Finance House in April – was distracting his squad, saying: “It doesn’t seem apparent. That’s been the case throughout the season from my experience.
“The players love training and they love working. They’re enthusiastic about what they’re doing.
“Stability’s important but I don’t think it (the absence of stability at Leeds) is for a lack of trying. The powers that be here are trying to get stability. There’s just so much to address that it becomes difficult. I can only concentrate on and affect what I can affect. I’ve been pleased with the reaction of the players so far. That’s the only thing I can affect.”
Redfearn has seen half of the transfer window pass without any new signings arriving and fresh faces are not expected in time for tomorrow’s clash with Birmingham.
The 49-year-old put forward former United striker Luciano
Becchio - now at Norwich City - as a possible loan target during recent talks with Cellino but Cellino rejected that suggestion, saying Becchio was “the past”.
“In an ideal scenario we’d freshen things up,” Redfearn said. “ That goes without saying. There’s still time in the window.
“But I’m head coach. I coach the players. My job is to prepare the team for Saturday.
“I was asked to put a list of names together and I have done. That’s where it’s at. Ultimately we have an owner and a recruiter (sporting director Nicola Salerno). It’s not just a manager bringing players in. I’m head coach and I can only suggest players.”