Leeds United: Redfearn urges Whites to tie up loan stars
Sixteen months have now passed since Neil Redfearn's departure from Leeds United.
A seven-year-stint that began and ended with the club’s Academy but featured 42 games in charge of the first team in between ended in July 2015.
There are, though, no sour grapes on the part of Redfearn, who only wants to see his former side succeed, and is doing so through his current role watching the Whites home and away for Radio Yorkhsire.
The 51-year-old hopes to return to management in the not too distant future. And Redfearn has already seen enough to believe that United could be challenging for a place in the Premier by May – if Leeds can “nail down” their thriving side in January by turning loans into permanent deals.
Redfearn has watched on as Leeds have gathered 22 points from their last possible 30, form that has propelled the Whites to sixth in the Championship table. Leeds are now in the play-offs for the first time since December 2013.
United crumbled to finish 15th in that season, but Redfearn has reasons to believe that this year’s play-off position is here to stay – if Leeds can wrap up the likes of loan stars Pontus Jansson, Kyle Bartley, Hadi Sacko and Pablo Hernandez on permanent deals.
Like most Whites followers, Redfearn has been particularly impressed with the partnership between Jansson and Bartley at centre-back but the Premier League vultures are already said to be circling Jansson.
The centre-back’s imperious displays appear to have alerted the interest of several clubs from the Premier League – with Watford rumoured to be particularly keen admirers. Redfearn is not surprised.
The former head coach admits the centre-back clearly has the potential to play in England’s top flight – a destination Redfearn believes Leeds could be heading for anyway if conducting the right transfer business in the new year.
Redfearn told the YEP: “The only drawbacks with loans I suppose is that once they are playing in your first team, they are in the shop window.
“I would imagine there would be clubs looking in and probably top-flight clubs thinking ‘that could do for us’.
“I don’t know the agreements that Leeds have got with the clubs – whether they have got first choice – but that will be an important process because Garry (Monk) has really built the team as such.
“You can roughly work out basically nine or 10 of the XI that are going to start every week, apart from the odd change, and he is not frightened of making the odd change. But the big test is keeping that group together if they can and, sort of, letting it develop.
“And I think what they have got to try and do is to try and nail that side down.
“That means getting your loan signings done and making sure that they are Leeds players because what you don’t want to do is to get a situation where you have got to start again, recruiting another centre-half or whatever.
“If you look at the current form, Leeds must be near the top of the current form guide.
“There can’t be many doing better than them – and Newcastle – so I think if they can steer clear of injuries and suspensions and keep a settled side out then there’s no reason why they can’t get in the play-offs.”
Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Carrow Road was responsible for putting Leeds into the play-offs, for the first time since Boxing Day 2013.
The Carrow Road clash saw Jansson shine at both ends of the pitch as the Swede scored his first goal for Leeds.
“I think probably the catalyst or the turning point was maybe the signing of Jansson at the back,” said Redfearn.
“He has made a big difference. If you look at Bartley and Jansson, they look good as a pair and I think that it’s helped Bartley as such. He’s a great build for a centre-half is Bartley but I think he is more of a footballing centre-half and I think Jansson is an up-and-at-you type. He comes and heads and kicks and clears and, as a pair, I think they complement one another really well.
“And I think as well it’s helped Rob Green in goal. He looks steady now, his bread and butter stuff is good, crossing, kicking and all that, and when you need him he has made two or three outstanding saves. But it’s a pretty mean back-four.
“They don’t give much away and when you watch the games you can’t remember too many efforts on Leeds’ goal and I think that as well is purely down to the fact that it’s like a team ethic thing.
“They all work for one another and you can see a real camaraderie to get results.”
That camaraderie has now led Leeds to a five-game unbeaten run, and just two losses from their last 12 games.
It is this form that has led to Monk being nominated for the October manger of the month award, and Redfearn admits United’s head coach will also be attracting glances from the Premier.
Redfearn reasoned: “It’s like anything and anybody who is doing well and anybody who is being successful there will be people looking in and being interested.
“And, to be fair to Garry and what he has done, all along he has got his head down and cracked on with it. He seems like he is enjoying himself and the players and the staff and everybody, they all seem really together.
“Sometimes that can be worth more than anything, being in and around the right environment that you enjoy and that you love working in.
“I’m pretty sure that Garry is ambitious and he will want the best he can and hopefully that can be to the benefit of Leeds United. Hopefully he can take Leeds United with him.”
It was of taking United to the Premier that Redfearn dreamed of during his seven months in permanent charge under chairman Massimo Cellino from November 2014 until May 2015 when he was replaced by Uwe Rosler as head coach. Redfearn was offered back his role within United’s Academy but then resigned in July.
The Dewsbury-born former midfielder then returned to management in charge of Rotherham United last October, but was then shown the exit door in February.
During four months in charge of Rotherham, Redfearn twice took his Millers side to Elland Road, with the head coach saying he was refused a car parking space for his first visit back to Elland Road in November 2015. Leeds say Rotherham, in line with every away club, were allocated six car park spaces.
At some stage soon, Redfearn hopes to once again be parking up at grounds as either a manager or coach.
Redfearn explained: “Obviously I am looking to get back in sooner rather than later and I think the big thing is that I enjoy the coaching side of it – working the players and getting on the grass. “I’ve had offers on and off and I’ve been close to one or two things but it’s not quite happened.
“But I think I have got to this point now in my career – not where I am going to pick and chose – but it’s a certain type of role that I am after because you get to a certain age and you know your strengths, you know where you can really make things happen and I think that came out to be fair in what I did at Leeds – the kids coming through and working with players.
“I am very similar in my make-up to how Garry Monk is. I want to work with the players and make them better, so it’s pleasing from that angle that the club is in good hands because they have got a guy who wants to work with them and I know that route works because of past experiences.”
Reflecting on his thoughts surrounding his Leeds exit some 16 months on, Redfearn mused: “I don’t hold any grudges and I’m just pleased for them.
“There’s a lot of good people at the club and I am pleased particularly for the young players coming through. You know you have been a big part of that. There’s still a lot of interest and I’m pleased for them. I am chuffed for them. It’s like anything else in football, you do as best you can when you are there and you still have a vested interest when you leave because I was there for the best part of seven years and put a lot of hard work in – like a lot of people did. It’s nice to see them doing well.”
Asked if he was still having issues getting a car parking space, Redfearn laughed: “I don’t have a problem getting a car parking space!
“There was a lot made of that and it’s water under the bridge. I usually get to park within sight of the ground so I’m all right.”