Massimo Cellino has claimed responsibility for Charlie Taylor’s breakthrough at Leeds United - and revealed he sold Stephen Warnock to Derby County in January “without telling” head coach Neil Redfearn.
In another remarkable moment during yesterday’s press conference at Elland Road, Cellino said he had been behind Taylor’s emergence this season and appeared to play down Redfearn’s reputation as a coach who favours blooding young players.
United’s recent Championship campaign relied on a number of academy products, all of whom worked under Redfearn in his previous role as youth-team boss.
Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook were used throughout the season but Taylor, who received a new three-year contract from Cellino last summer, came into the side in January following the departure of the experienced left-back Warnock to Pride Park.
Cellino said he had first become aware of Taylor’s talent while the 21-year-old was playing in the League Two play-offs on loan at Fleetwood Town and nearing the end of his deal at Elland Road.
United’s owner said Redfearn and previous head coaches had frustrated him by opting to rely on Warnock until the former Liverpool player left for Derby in the January transfer window - a move completed against Redfearn’s wishes.
“Darko Milanic and Neil Redfearn did not (play) Charlie Taylor,” Cellino said. “I was watching this boy that made his choice to stay in Leeds. He could take more money to go to another club but he chose to stay in Leeds and nobody gives him a chance to play.
“Then I had occasion to give Warnock (to Derby). I did it without telling Neil Redfearn or anyone. Two games after, Neil came and said ‘Massimo, he’s bloody good Charlie Taylor.’
“Sometimes there’s not one coach in the world I know that likes to play young players. No-one. They prefer experienced players and stronger players, mentally and physically. When they are p****d off with someone they go for the young player.
“Not one of those (coaches) is different but I’m here to protect those (players). I don’t play young players because I want to sell them. I act in a different way.”
Speaking about Taylor in January, Redfearn said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s ready.
“No disrespect to Stephen Warnock but I actually think that the way Charlie’s played would have left Steve with a fight on his hands to get back in the team.”
Taylor made his first league start of the season away at Bolton Wanderers on January 10 and played a total of 25 times. Mowatt, meanwhile, took a clutch of player-of-the-year awards earlier this month and Cellino said yesterday that “51 per cent” of United’s survival in the Championship was owed to the form of Mowatt and Cook.
But despite that, the Italian voiced his anger at the cost of the academy at Leeds, saying the wage bill for young players there amounted to £1.2m - heightened by the fear of losing talent to Premier League clubs.
“I don’t know the English rules,” Cellino said. “I just see that we spend more than £1.2m a year just to play the academy players’ wages.
“No way in the world you pay those academy wages. I ask ‘why are we paying that?’ And they tell me because otherwise they can go to someone else.
“We have a problem. We have a good player from Leeds, he’s been here from nine years old and is nearly 16 now. Apparently one team from Manchester is coming to take the player. I might start the academy at 16 years old because if we do the work and then they go to Manchester because they have a couple more pounds than Leeds, that’s really wrong.
“But here we have big luck because in Leeds they grow beautiful players. Not because we are good but because it’s (in the) DNA. The thing that makes me proud, different to Cagliari, is that players there say ‘we want £1000 or we go away.’ In Leeds it’s not like that. That’s something I’m proud to say.”