Neil Redfearn has given a vote of confidence to Leeds United boss Darko Milanic, saying the Slovenian needs time and space to come good and backing the set-up at Thorp Arch.
United’s academy manager said the first-team squad were in the hands of a successful pair in Milanic and assistant Novica Nikcevic and claimed his own “undiluted” focus on the academy was in the best interests of the club.
Redfearn resumed his academy job full-time last month after Milanic arrived from Sturm Graz as United’s permanent replacement for David Hockaday, the head coach sacked by owner Massimo Cellino in August.
Cellino overlooked Redfearn for the role despite the 49-year-old amassing 10 points from four games in caretaker charge but Cellino asked Milanic to involve Redfearn in first-team affairs and include him in his backroom staff on matchdays.
Redfearn did not attend Milanic’s first three games in charge, however, and declined an offer to be in the dug-out for Friday night’s 2-1 defeat at Rotherham United.
He and Milanic agreed that the the workload at the academy was too heavy to allow for other duties and Redfearn – a youth-team coach at Thorp Arch since 2009 – said the development programme would benefit from his unbroken attention. Milanic, meanwhile, is without a win in four matches as head coach and planning for a difficult trip to Norwich City tomorrow night.
Redfearn said: “There are no problems. Darko’s got Novica with him, a really experienced coach, so he’s got good back-up there. It works well.
“To be fair, Massimo’s only trying to do what’s best for the club. He’s genuinely trying to make it work. But it’s good to sit down as adults and work it all out.
“I’ve got an important role and he (Milanic) understands that. There’s a lot of bases to cover, it’s time consuming and the Under-21 group gets bigger with first-team players dropping into it when a game’s coming. On a matchday that group needs to train and it’s important for those lads to have the continuity of a senior coach.”
Redfearn operated in a dual role as first-team coach and academy manager during Brian McDermott’s 13 months as manager but admitted his influence on the youth-team work had been affected by the extra work.
“I don’t want to dilute my message to the academy and that happened a bit last year when I stepped up with Brian,” he said. “It’s on the training field where I can really affect what happens with young players.
“You can be there (at first-team games) as an extra pair of eyes and ears and pass things on but these two guys (Milanic and Nikcevic) have worked together for a long time and they’ve been successful. It’s early doors and they’ve just come in so they need space to work.”
Leeds had three academy products in their squad at Rotherham on Friday – Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook – and midfielder Chris Dawson is pushing for inclusion despite Milanic admitting last week that he was wary of including too many youngsters in his line-up.
“We have good dialogue and I talk to Darko after every Under-21 game,” Redfearn said. “I tell him which players have done well, who needs pushing on and who would benefit his squad. He takes that info and does what he thinks is right – which is how it should be.”
Redfearn was linked with the managerial job at York City last week – a position which went to Russ Wilcox, the former boss of Scunthorpe United – and he was also rumoured to have interested Barnsley while Danny Wilson was struggling for results last month.
The ex-Barnsley midfielder admitted after his recent spell as caretaker that he was increasingly keen on a first-team management job but he played down the prospect of an imminent departure from Leeds, saying: “I want to see the job through and I want to make sure this club’s in a good position for years to come. The young players are the catalyst for that.”