Neil Redfearn has warned his players not to confuse pretty football with effective football, saying he wants the “full package” at Leeds United instead of a “nice side”.
United’s head coach took encouragement from signs of improvement between Saturday’s defeat to Cardiff City and a midweek draw at home to Charlton but he directed criticism at his team during the half-time break on Tuesday night.
Leeds dominated periods of that match and led 2-1 with 10 minutes to go before a contentious penalty decision allowed Charlton to claim a late point.
The result extended United’s run without a win to eight matches – a sequence which stretches back to the end of Redfearn’s previous reign as caretaker boss – and it left the club two points above the Championship’s relegation places.
Redfearn said United’s form was being affected by the absence of a settled side, three months into a campaign which has suffered from heavy disruption and the dismissal of two other head coaches by owner Massimo Cellino.
Redfearn, who took charge of the first team on a permanent basis last weekend, said: “I want to see gradual improvement in every game and I saw an improvement from Cardiff to Charlton.
“We were the better side on Tuesday and we should have won against a good side. They don’t give much away, they’re hard to beat, but we opened them up quite a few times.
“It was a lot better and it looked a lot more like one of my sides – more like I want them to play. We were competitive and there were 17 shots on goal. The opposition have to feel threatened. “Those are the plusses but I want to make us the complete package. At half-time I said to the players ‘we’re doing alright, we look like a nice side but I don’t want a nice side. I want us to be a side who win games and affect both boxes, who play with energy and desire to get a result.’
“I just feel we’re a little bit tender at the moment. I’ve got to get them to a stage where they can be confident about everything again. But the more they perform like Tuesday, the more they’ll believe in what they’re doing.”
United’s line-up changed repeatedly during the short tenures of ex-head coaches David Hockaday and Darko Milanic and it has yet to fall into place under Redfearn. Captain Jason Pearce was the only remaining ever-present player at the end of last month but he missed Tuesday’s draw with Charlton through suspension. Leeds possess a large senior squad and have already used 30 different players.
“There’s been a lot of change in this third of the season,” Redfearn said. “There’ve been a lot of comings and goings – players in and out and coaches too. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a lot of change at one club. You need consistency and a settled side.
“I always look at it this way: in your side there are constants and variables. The variables are your people at the sharp end – strikers you might swap around to try and nick a goal. But the bulk of your side has to be the same. And the more they play together, the better they’ll get.”
Redfearn hinted that the club might look to the transfer market for new signings, despite the number of professionals on the books at Elland Road.
United’s boss said several of his fringe players were effectively surplus to requirements and claimed his side “need help”. The emergency loan market closes later this month and Leeds are likely to face a transfer embargo in January due to a breach of the Football League’s Financial Fair Play rules (FFP).
“We’ve got a big squad here but some players are out the picture,” Redfearn said. “The squad’s not in a healthy place and it needs a bit of change. The team do need help.”