Age no barrier: New Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn will look to his academy products to boost the first team squad. Leon Wobschall reports.
When the going gets tough, it is time to revert to type and go with what you know, which is usually battle-hardened experience when it comes to British football.
So the theory goes and so Hansen thought. But there are exceptions to every rule.
In the attritional environment that is the Championship, when the games can come thick and fast and the relentless action can represent a mental as well a physical assault course to negotiate, apprenticeships for young footballers can also equate to a hard school of footballing knocks.
It would be easy to sideline them. But it is a charge Neil Redfearn will not be guilty of.
Those fresh-faced talents who prosper, in the long term, are not just those who are technically proficient, but have something about them as well. And in that respect, Redfearn believes Leeds United are well stocked.
As the saying goes: ‘If you are good enough, you are young enough’ and despite Leeds heading into tonight’s clash with Charlton on the back of a dispiriting seven-match run without a win bonus, Redfearn insists that keeping the kids out of the firing line is not an option as far as he is concerned.
Leeds ended Saturday’s game at Cardiff with four Academy products on the pitch, aged 21, 20, 19 and 17 respectively, with enhanced exposure – not less – for the club’s thriving batch of youngsters something that he continue not to shy away from.
He said: “I think the shining light so far this season have been the young players who have come in and done well.
“Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook have come in and Chris Dawson came in and did well off the bench on Saturday. Sam Byram is back in contention and Charlie Taylor is around it as well.
“They are our players and they are going to be in and around our first team, hopefully for years to come. We have good players in the under-21s and good players underneath that.
“To be honest, looking back at the games we have had, it is the younger players that have dealt with things as well as anybody else.
“Alex Mowatt for me was the best player on the pitch on Saturday from both sides. He took his goal really well and his touch and awareness in that midfield area and he was combative.
“They are good players, whatever age they are and you have to put them in.
“So the future looks good. But the initial task is to try and get us up and running now. We have lost our way a little bit for whatever reason and on a bit of a bad run – seven games without a win.”
Redfearn’s commitment to youth and the long-term vitality of United is refreshing and has to be lauded.
But equally, the Yorkshireman is conscious that in the here and now, results must start to arrive in an autumn harvest which has dried up since three derby points against Huddersfield Town on September 20.
Redfearn acknowledges a little bit of confidence has, understandably, been eroded. But he is also secure in the knowledge that this same group of players produced comfortably Leeds’ best spell of the season under his watch between August 28 and September 20. They have it in their locker to hit the heights again is his steadfast belief.
A bit of extra time on the training ground to reinforce his message would have been handy this week, he is the first to admit.
But that must wait until the international break, with Redfearn very much having to deal in the short term, with a game against Charlton and rest and recovery and a limited window of preparation for a weekend match with Blackpool providing a crowded itinerary.
On the notion of confidence being knocked a little, he said: “Perhaps a little bit.
“I think it comes with the fact that prior to Saturday, we’d gone six games without a win and then that bit of doubt creeps in. But it is my job to get them back to where they need to be.
“It might take the international break to get everything embedded. But we can’t look past these next two games because we have two real opportunities to pick up six points and that is the way we have got to look at it.
“There were some plusses out of Saturday’s game. But I don’t like getting beaten; that’s the bottom line.
“Leeds United supporters do not like getting beaten and the football club has got to get in that mindset.
“I don’t think there is much in any game which comes up in the Championship.
“You are going to get the odd game which one side gets really on top and runs away with it. But it doesn’t happen that often.
“It is fine margins we have to overcome and develop and make sure we are the right side of the result.
“I am not a real man for stats, but 53 per cent possession in a game we lost 3-1 means there is not a lot wrong.
“But there is something missing as the most important stat is Cardiff 3 Leeds 1. It is something we have got to get right; but they had 14 shots and we had 10 and they had five shots on target; we had four. There wasn’t much in it.
“But it is what we do with that possession.
“We have got to be a little bit more positive and brave on the ball and get in and around the box quicker and the opposition have got to feel threatened.
“We have proved in the caretaker spell I had that we are capable of winning and putting back to back wins together.
“So we can do it. But it is finding that happy medium and middle ground where we are consistent enough to start picking results up.”