Leeds United: Cellino unveils “hard-working” Milanic as head coach

Head coach Darko Milanic takes training at Thorp Arch. PIC: Varley Picture Agency
Head coach Darko Milanic takes training at Thorp Arch. PIC: Varley Picture Agency
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Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino welcomed the arrival of a “humble, hard-working, positive” head coach after Darko Milanic signed a two-year contract at Elland Road.

Milanic was confirmed as the first foreign boss in United’s 95-year history, hours after handling a training session at Thorp Arch.

The 46-year-old Slovenian flew into England on Monday evening having negotiated his release from Austrian side Sturm Graz and he will take charge of Leeds for the first time away to Brentford on Saturday.

Milanic, the former Maribor coach, terminated his deal at Graz after less than year in the job, activating a clause allowing him to buy his way out of the contract. That agreement is understood to have cost between £200,000 and £300,000.

He has been joined at Leeds by Novica Nikcevic - his assistant at Graz and a man who Cellino described as “a very positive person” - and the two men are due to be officially unveiled at a press conference today.

Cellino, who waited almost four weeks to name a replacement for David Hockaday, told the YEP: “I took my time because I wanted the right man. If I rush we burn and I could not afford a mistake.

“Darko is a humble guy. He talks little but he works a lot and he’s a coach who knows about international players. He’s hard-working, he’s positive, and his assistant coach is a very positive person too.

“He speaks a lot of languages, he can work with foreign players - English, Italian, any nationality - and he can relate to foreign players. When I spoke to him I knew that he was right for us. His style and his philosophy is right for us.”

Cellino, who spoke with Steve Clarke, Oscar Garcia and Simon Grayson after ending Hockaday’s ill-fated tenure on August 28, said he had first become aware of Milanic’s ability as a coach during his five-year reign as Maribor between 2008 and 2013.

Milanic won nine trophies with the Slovenian club and his work there earned him the head coach’s job at Sturm Graz in the summer of 2013.

He was tied to a three-year deal in Austria but Graz agreed to sanction his departure to Elland Road after their league game against SV Ried last Saturday.

“There was a walk-out clause at Graz but I was really asking for a favour,” Cellino said. “Because it was Leeds, because it was a big chance for him, Graz made it easy for us. I appreciate that.

“Darko needs time now, he needs to work, but we have a good team and we’ve had good results. He can do well for us.”

Neil Redfearn, United’s academy manager who took charge of the past four league matches as caretaker, has reverted to his youth-team role following Milanic’s arrival at Thorp Arch yesterday.

But Cellino again reiterated his desire for Milanic to keep Redfearn close to the first team, saying: “I’m not saying Neil wasn’t good enough for the (head coach’s) job. He was good enough. He was one of the few good things I got when I bought this club - some of the value I got.

“But to appoint him would have be too easy. If I do that, I’d be taking a big risk with the academy. People know me, they know I don’t like throwing money out of the window, so if it was all about money then I’d have Redfearn as head coach and not pay somebody else. It’s not about money.

“Neil is part of the history (the fabric) of this club, he does great things with the academy and I don’t want to waste that. Those are my politics. But the coaches must all work together.

“Darko is not the manager, he’s one of a team, and Neil is one of the team too. I liked that (Brian) McDermott involved Redfearn with the first-team and I don’t understand why Hockaday didn’t. That was wrong. Neil is part of the environment.”