NEIL REDFEARN has hailed the feel-good factor at resurgent Leeds United – and expressed his relief at positive on-pitch news taking centre stage after some fraught off-the-field headlines in 2014-15.
The buoyant Whites head to struggling Brighton and Hove Albion tonight, seeking to record their sixth victory in seven Championship outings – and claim their fourth successive away league win in the same season for the first time since April 2001.
United’s fine recent run has provided a welcome antidote to a plethora of dramatic stories since last summer, culminating in Massimo Cellino’s disqualification from owning the club and the dismissal of his appeal last month.
Suddenly all the talk is on football again and Redfearn – United’s third permanent head coach this season – is particularly pleased to be able to provide United’s long-suffering and loyal supporters with something worthwhile to shout about.
Redfearn, who has confirmed that Liam Cooper will return and skipper the side at the Amex Stadium this evening (7.45pm), said: “It’s a light relief because it’s been a tough season with a lot of change and upheaval.
“There’s always something every week that has (previously) happened and it is usually something other than football.
“It is nice for the supporters to be able to concentrate on the football and for them to be able to look ahead with some optimism now.
“It has got a feel-good factor to it and it is a much better place to come and be.”
The sense of optimism is such that some of the more optimistic United supporters are even starting to talk about a potential surprise tilt at the play-offs.
As it stands, 11th-placed Leeds are 15 points behind sixth-placed Watford and while a top-six berth looks too onerous a task, Redfearn is challenging his side to keep the season ‘alive.’
Redfearn’s 22 Championship matches in charge so far this term, whether as caretaker or full-time head coach, have yielded a solid haul of 37 points from a possible 66 and while he admits United’s overall seasonal tally could have been stronger if he been in charge for its entirely, his sole focus in on continuing the club’s upward momentum in the table.
On his hopes for Leeds, yet to breach the top ten so far in 2014-15, said: “It would have been interesting to see if I’d had those ten games. But that’s in hindsight, it’s easy to say.
“I think the most important thing is that we have turned the season around and look far more upwardly-mobile as a team and a football club.
“There’s no point trying to aim at things, but just keep this run going and see how far we can get.
“The more successful we are between now and the end of the season with this young side, the better the experience will be for next season when hopefully we can use it to hit the ground running.
“We are fighting for points, for a different reason now and we want to keep our season alive for as long as we can and get as far as we can.
“Mathematically, we are not safe and there are sides below who are capable of putting runs together. But I have to say that at this point of the season that sides are going to start playing and beating one and other and they can’t all win.
If we can pick as many results as we can up between now and the end of the season, we can pick our heads up then.”