Neil Redfearn will take up the reins as Leeds United’s next head coach today after another dramatic weekend at Elland Road saw the sacking of Darko Milanic.
Milanic was fired by owner Massimo Cellino in the wake of a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, losing his job after 32 days in charge and becoming the shortest-serving boss in United’s history.
The Slovenian’s six games failed to yield a single win and Cellino lost patience with a man he appointed on September 23 after watching Wolves take advantage of a weak second-half performance from Leeds.
Cellino moved immediately to install academy manager Redfearn as United’s new first-team boss, the third permanent head coach employed by the Italian this season.
Redfearn – the club’s head of youth development since 2012 and a coach at Thorp Arch for almost six years – is yet to officially sign a contract as head coach but he will take training today as Leeds begin their preparation for Saturday’s game at Cardiff City. Redfearn previously acted as caretaker boss for four matches between David Hockaday’s dismissal in August and the appointment of Milanic less than five weeks ago.
Leeds took 10 points from those games but Cellino decided against appointing Redfearn full-time, voicing concern about the damage his promotion might do to United’s academy structure.
Speaking after Milanic’s dismissal, however, Cellino told the YEP: “Neil Redfearn will be head coach, 100 per cent. He’ll take training (today) and the job is his.
“The players know him, they respect him and they play for him. He plays attacking football, he plays the football we want to play. And he gets results. This guy (Milanic) had a losing mentality. He never played like he wanted to win.”
Milanic walked out on a two-year contract at Austrian Bundesliga club Sturm Graz to take the job at Leeds, his first experience of English football.
Cellino handed him an identical deal but terminated the agreement on Saturday evening after Milanic’s six games yielded three points. Assistant boss Novica Nikcevic is also leaving United.
Leeds produced their most convincing display under Milanic in the first half on Saturday, taking the lead through a Mirco Antenucci goal, but Wolves dominated after the interval and fought back to win the game through efforts from James Henry and Leon Clarke. United are 18th in the Championship, five points clear of the bottom three.
Asked if he regretted overlooking Redfearn for the head coach’s job last month, Cellino said: “No because I’d heard good things about Milanic. He had a good record, he looked like a good coach. He was the coach I wanted.
“But what he was doing here was not enough. The (substitutes) he put on, they didn’t work. On Saturday, how can the team play well in the first half and be so bad in the second? It’s not right. The coach, he did nothing about it.”
Milanic appeared unaware of the fate awaiting him when he attended the post-match press conference.
But Milanic admitted he was under pressure, saying: “I can understand that – the situation with a new head coach who has only a few points in six games.
“My job is to make this team better, to improve. It’s a young team without a lot of experience, without some great players, and we have to get stability.”
Hockaday’s short and bizarre tenure at Elland Road also lasted for six competitive games but Cellino was unrepentant about another rapid sacking, saying: “I always tell you that when I make a mistake, I won’t pretend it was the right decision.
“I made a mistake with this guy. He is negative, he has a losing mentality. I can’t keep him just to defend my own decision. Some people said to me ‘give him one more game’ but we are going down the league. I had to do it.”
Redfearn’s recent spell as caretaker was his third temporary reign at Leeds. The ex-Barnsley midfielder secured three wins and a draw from his four games and was linked with the York City job earlier this month.