Leeds United: Neil’s future needs confirming as next season ‘starts’ right now – Ritchie

Neil Redfearn.
Neil Redfearn.
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Every manager in the country, or just about every manager, will be starting to think about what needs to be done when this season finishes up.

It’s not easy to think ahead when you’re right in the thick of the run-in but the best clubs are the ones who can look beyond the here and now without losing their focus.

To use the Championship as an example, not a single side in that division is certain of promotion yet but every club with a decent chance needs to know what their next move will be if they wind up in the Premier League.

You can’t just wake up on May 3 and say ‘right, let’s think about this.’

By the same token, if you miss out on promotion then you’ve got to be in a position to take stock quickly.

Who needs replacing and in which positions does the team need to be better?

If one or two long-term loanees are going back to their parent clubs, how do you plan to replace them?

Leeds United have an advantage in the sense that they know which division they’ll be playing in next season. They’re not going down and no-one’s talking about the play-offs anymore.

But this is still the time to start getting concrete plans in place for next season – and a new contract for Neil Redfearn should be the first port of call.

I mean, he’s earned a new contract, hasn’t he? We’re surely all in agreement about that.

The team have been on a great run recently and I imagine – or I certainly hope – there’d be uproar if the club decided to let him go.

Giving him a short-term contract in November with a view to a second year in charge was, in my eyes, the equivalent of a trial. In other words, do well short-term and you’ll get the chance to keep the job long term. It’s only fair.

I don’t see how anyone can argue with his record; not when you consider how much trouble the club were in around Christmas time.

Neither David Hockaday nor Darko Milanic got a grip of the head coach’s job – admittedly neither of them was given much chance – but Neil’s risen to the challenge, he’s held his nerve and he’s got his players out of the woods.

If I was running Leeds, I’d be backing him and backing him properly.

I’d be going to him now, with a month and a half of the season to go, and talking at length about where the team needs to improve, which players he’s interested in and which players he badly wants. I’m not talking about general positions. I’m talking about actual names; players who Neil rates, rather than targets who are suggested to him.

The way things work at Elland Road, I don’t doubt that we’ll see more signings this summer which are basically made by other people (or the owner). And in truth, they’re not the only club who work that way.

More and more do. But there has to be a balance and there needs to be some recognition of the fact that Neil understands football.

Have faith in him. Give him a chance. Knowing him as I do, he’ll be more than happy to be judged on a team of his making and his choosing.

The key work is going to come at either end of the field. Leeds have been stronger defensively but that area still needs work and continuity. Up front, they’re not producing anywhere near enough goals. The bonus is that in between, Neil already has a young, fresh and strong midfield. It’s creative and it’s dangerous. I really wouldn’t be tinkering with that too much.

Over the next few weeks, he’ll probably experiment a bit. Perhaps it would be worth giving the likes of Adryan and other loanees a go, just so that everyone is clear on what they bring to the table.

Because, as much as players need to come in, others will need to leave.

This hasn’t been the best of seasons and not everyone’s coped well. Beyond any of that, clubs have to balance the books.

Deep down, Neil will basically know who should stay and who should go.

I say that because in his shoes, at this time of year, I would know.

Clubs and managers are judged on what’s happening right here at this moment but in football, you’re always looking ahead. It’s the only way to improve and survive.