Leeds United: Fan Neil is ready to step into the breach

Neil Redfearn
Neil Redfearn
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Trust: Neil Redfearn says he can work with Massimo Cellino long-term to bring success back to his boyhood club. Leon Wobschall reports.

IN ITALY, Massimo Cellino earned the nickname Il Mangiatore Di Direttore – The Manager Eater – and he has already shown his insatiable appetite for devouring head coaches during his six-and-a-half month stint with Leeds United.

A haul of three points from six games encompassing a brief 32-day period proved enough for Cellino to call time on Darko Milanic’s tenure, with the baton now passed onto Neil Redfearn – the fourth permanent head coach during the Italian’s reign at the club.

Like with David Hockaday, six matches was all it took for Cellino to lose patience with Milanic, with Redfearn emerging from the shadows yet again.

After three temporary spells in charge lasting a combined total of 54 days and covering nine games, the 49-year-old is again entrusted with first-team matters, but on a full-time basis now.

If he can rewind the clock to mid-September when he presided over comfortably Leeds’ best spell of the campaign so far, an unbeaten streak of four matches including three wins, he will secure the gratitude of many. Not least his boss.

With Cellino, security of tenure over the longer term can never been taken as read, with his culling of 36 head coaches in his 22-year spell in charge of Cagliari an infamous statistic.

When Redfearn spoke with Cellino yesterday afternoon, he was entitled to have that firmly in his mind. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t.

But the Yorkshireman says he received the sufficient assurances he was after from the Italian regarding his long-term future at Leeds, with the working relationship between the pair before being based on trust and a straightforward approach.

Conscious of Cellino’s previous at Cagliari, Redfearn is fully entitled to be, but his concern is on the here and now and ultimately the future, with Cellino clearly someone who he respects and can work with at his boyhood club. Leeds United.

He said: “He (Cellino) sees me as the face of it to take it forward and all the noises are right.

“I take people on face value and that’s fine because whenever he has told me things, things have happened.

“I am well aware football has moved on and club circumstances change, but I genuinely believe this guy is trying to take the club in the right direction.

“It is great being part of it.

“Leeds is a great club with a fantastic fanbase and history. Obviously there was the Leeds United I loved as a kid and I remember the Don Revie and Eddie Gray years and while football has changed, this is still Leeds United and the club I supported as a lad.”

Many will be genuinely hoping that Redfearn is the man to buck the trend and provide some relative stability on the head coaching front at Leeds.

Managerial longevity was the rarest of beasts at Cellino’s former club Cagliari. Admittedly, it was briefly achieved by Giampiero Ventura, in charge for a two-year stint July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999, taking the club to promotion to Serie A and then to a 12th-placed finish in 1998-99 – ahead of his dismissal.

The current Torino head coach was to return to Cagliari from July 1, 2002 to December 1, 2003, only for Cellino to wield the axe again the following campaign with the club then residing back in Serie B.

Along with Ventura, Davide Ballardini, Daniele Arrigoni and Massimo Ficcadenti were to return for second spells, but they proved consistent in their relative brevity, as was the way at Cellino’s Cagliari.

Cellino’s predilection to lose faith with his head coaches at Leeds has so far been manifest, with David Hockaday and Darko Milanic set to be short footnotes in the club’s history.

Cellino brutally labelled Milanic as a negative coach with a losing mentality, with Redfearn’s earlier spell at the helm positively golden by comparison. Milanic’s meagre points haul compared unflatteringly with Redfearn pocketing 10 points from four games in charge on a temporary basis between August 28 and September 23, representing over one half of the club’s entire tally so far in 2014-15.

In marked contrast, David Hockaday and Milanic mustered six points from a combined total of 10 Championship matches in their respective spells at the helm, which in the final analysis represented relegation form, regardless of Cellino’s penchant for getting rid of managers’ with considerable impunity.

Redfearn’s fifty per cent success rate in his temporary spell in the manager’s chair between Simon Grayson’s sacking on February 1, 2012 and the appointment of Neil Warnock just over a fortnight later also stands up favourably to the vital statistics of both Hockaday and Milanic.

While defeats arrived against Coventry City and Brighton and Hove Albion, two wins were secured in Redfearn’s four-game tenure against Bristol City and Doncaster Rovers.

As a further contrast, Warnock won just twice in his opening ten matches in the hotseat.

How Leeds could do with some positive results from Redfearn in the coming weeks and despite some far from earth-shattering ones of late, he has seen things to be enthused about. More especially in the first half of Saturday’s game with Wolverhampton Wanderers, which hankered back to the final game of his caretaker spell at home to Huddersfield Town on September 20.

He said: “I saw the game on Saturday.

“Obviously I had kept out of the way (previously) and I did that because I thought it was right and that I had to give Darko space to work. I didn’t want to make it difficult and felt it was important he brought in his own assistant and a guy he knew.

“That was fair enough and I helped him as much as I could with the young players coming through.

“For an hour on Saturday, I thought we were excellent and played really well, particularly in the first half.

“Cook and Mowatt were outstanding and I thought Morison led the line quite well.

“He was always going to run out of legs because he hasn’t played much football.

“But I thought he showed glimpses and looked right and there were loads of plusses in the first half.”