LEEDS UNITED have turned it around this year and a fair bit is being made about the impact since Steve Thompson came as number two to Neil Redfearn.
I played against Thommo and know him to speak to and have met him quite a lot. I remember bringing my teams to play Blackpool when he and Simon (Grayson) were there and we always had a good chat and got on. He’s a down-to-earth bloke who knows what he wants.
Some people are just made to be a number two and be out of the whole limelight and be that buffer between the manager and players.
I am not sure whether that’s the case with Steve and if he has managerial aspirations. But what I do know is that Steve has obviously brought something to the table since he has been at Leeds as they have had a great run of results.
What I always wanted from my number two when I was managing was for him not to be a yes man. Obviously, a manager and his deputy must have the same visions of how they want a side to play. But an assistant also has to sometimes turn around and say: ‘Well, no, I don’t agree with that and we should do this and that’. Managers need that sounding board.
If you are the man in charge and fans and everyone are saying you should do this and that, you can just think everything is my decision. Sometimes, you need someone to say: ‘I think that might be wrong.’ Number twos have a massive role to play. They can see things that manager’s don’t.
For me, Rick Holden was a fantastic help for me at Barnsley and Willie Urmston when I was at Oldham, plus my team at Huddersfield. You do need that and I always valued opinions of my coaching staff and their input. That’s the way it should work.
When you look at Neil and Thommo, both were midfield players and they seem to have got that part of the side at Leeds working really well whoever is playing in there, with Austin and Murphy and Cook and Mowatt. They seem to have got that blend right.
You look at the difference in Luke Murphy. For me, I have always thought he was a fantastic player and now you are beginning to see that player and he has still more in his locker and he can be a real star performer for Leeds and hopefully we can see more of that next year.
Looking at the midfield, Rodolph has got back on his game and I don’t think there’s a more powerful and forceful centre midfielder in the division who can do what he can do and obviously Cook and Mowatt are both flourishing and they have got so much more to come.
Leeds are certainly one of the more creative midfields who will take risks to get balls into danger areas.
Sometimes when it doesn’t come off, some might take a bit of stick from the crowd. But they don’t shirk a pass to try and get a goal. If you don’t take those risks, you never will score goals. Murphy is certainly one who will do that and is getting his shots off and is returning to what I saw of him at Crewe.
They just have to maintain the stiffness at the back and then maybe recruit in the summer and get a 20-goal a season. For a few fair hundred quid...
England are in action against Lithuania at Wembley tonight and much is being made of Harry Kane and I hope he gets his chance during the break.
I think if you sat down with Harry and asked him: ‘Did you expect to do what you have done this season?’ he would probably laugh at you. He had been out on loan and not particularly blown anybody out of the water, but he has obviously learned things.
He’s come back to Spurs and obviously thought: ‘I am going to have a right go at this’ and he’s got everything, hasn’t he?
What I like about him is that he’s no-nonsense. Give him half a yard or inch and he will fire a shot off and I like that.
He is a good targetman and thoroughly deserves to be in the England squad and while he might not start on Friday – I think it might be Danny Welbeck and Rooney in the qualifier – he should get one in the friendly in Italy on Tuesday.
Young lads coming through like Kane is at a big club have just to get football where they can.
Sometimes, the problem with young players is they think what does going out on loan mean. For me, that means your parent club think you have got a chance and they want to give you a chance to go out and come back better equipped to go into their first team as you were not quite ready beforehand.
I know it does happen where clubs have an enquiry about one of your younger players and you will say: ‘No, he’s not good enough for you.’ That goes on behind the scenes and you have to be brutally honest.
I would say for every young player not getting in at a Premier League club that if you have a chance to go out on loan, go and do it as it will mean that your parent club think you have got a chance still. It’s important not to take the negative side of it as a player and think you are not wanted.
Going away on loan can also help players in the respect that if it does turn out that you are not good enough to be at your parent club, that you can make an impression at another club who might say: ‘Listen, he did okay for us.’
At the end of the season, those clubs you have been on loan at might take you permanently.
Young players should use any loan spell anywhere as a positive thing.