Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn kept his counsel on Stephen Warnock and Luciano Becchio last night but gave young left-back Charlie Taylor a firm vote of confidence, saying the “time is right” for the 21-year-old to get his chance at Elland Road.
Speaking to the YEP, Redfearn declined to discuss Warnock’s impending transfer to Derby County or United’s refusal to sanction a move for Luciano Becchio, insisting his “priority is the Birmingham City game on Saturday.”
Leeds look likely to go into that fixture at Elland Road without the services of Warnock after allowing their captain and established left-back to negotiate a permanent transfer to Pride Park.
Warnock, who has made 22 appearances for Leeds this season and captained the club since late November, is in the process of completing his move to Derby and will sign a contract before the end of this week provided examinations of his injured ankle do not reveal any severe damage.
The 33-year-old’s contract at Elland Road is due to expire in June and United owner Massimo Cellino was unwilling to match the offer made to him by Derby.
Redfearn is understood to have been keen to keep Warnock until the end of the Championship season but he refused to criticise the decision to release him, claiming he “understood how both parties were thinking” and saying it was “something for the club to speak about.”
Cellino said yesterday that despite Derby’s interest, he was not prepared to discuss an extension to Warnock’s deal until the season finished. The defender’s anticipated departure leaves Taylor as the only fit left-back in Redfearn’s squad, with Aidan White continuing to fight an injury sustained last summer.
Warnock’s ankle problem allowed Taylor to make his second start of the term in United’s FA Cup defeat to Sunderland on January 4 and he retained his place during last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers.
Redfearn said the defender’s time on loan at Fleetwood Town last season – a spell which saw Fleetwood win promotion from League Two and led Leeds to offer Taylor a new three-year contract – had primed him for an extended opportunity at Elland Road and claimed his recent performances had merited a run in the team.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s ready,” Redfearn said. “No disrespect to Stephen Warnock but I actually think that the way Charlie’s played would have left Steve with a fight on his hands to get back in the team.
“You have to remember that Charlie’s won promotion at Fleetwood. He’s got plenty of first-team games behind him. He could be coming into the team in a better set of circumstances, that’s fair to say, but that’s the way football goes.
“He comes across as a quiet, unassuming lad but he’s very switched on and very calculated. I think he’s tailor-made for first-team football at this level. He was excellent at Bolton and he looks comfortable in the team. No matter what’s gone on with Stephen Warnock, it’s wrong to be holding Charlie back. The time’s tight for him and he needs a run.”
Taylor’s elevation to the starting line-up has immersed him in a pressurised situation. United fell to 21st in the Championship on Saturday, despite collecting a point at Bolton, and the club cannot afford to waste home fixtures against Birmingham and Bournemouth, played back-to-back in the next five days. Their last league victory came on November 29.
“There’s obviously pressure here,” Redfearn said, “but we all need to rise to it and Charlie’s no different.
“You have to look at it this way – if we were top of the league, we’d still have to go out and beat Birmingham on Saturday. It wouldn’t be any different. You can talk about cushions and clubs who can afford to drop points but no-one thinks like that, not when you’re fighting for something.
“It would be great to get to a position where we had some breathing space and the pressure eased a bit but we’ve got to battle to get ourselves there. Bolton was a good result, a good start, but we need a win now. It’s been a little while since our last one. We do need a win.”
It is far from clear whether Redfearn will have new players in his squad for Birmingham’s visit to Elland Road. The club have not completed any transfers since the start of the January window and Redfearn’s call for the signing of Becchio on loan from Norwich City appears to have been dismissed.
The Argentinian – a prolific United player between 2008 and 2013 – was one of the options put to Cellino by Redfearn during discussions about potential recruits but Leeds’ Italian owner is unwilling to commit to the 31-year-old. Cellino told the YEP that Becchio was “a good player in the past but this is not the past.”
In the meantime, United are considering a deal to sign Edgar Cani, an Albanian striker with Catania, and most of their confirmed targets are playing abroad. It looks likely that Cellino and his sporting director, Nicola Salerno, will follow the path they took in the summer transfer window when eight players came to Leeds from foreign leagues.
Asked about the club’s refusal to move for Becchio, Redfearn said: “I’m just concentrating on getting ready for the weekend. The priority for me is the Birmingham game on Saturday.
“We’ve got a different set-up here, different to other clubs in our league, and I’ve said that before. But the team played well at Bolton and it’s vital that we build on that.
“I honestly feel that there’s a lot good about our performances but I’ve been around long enough to know that we need results and we need them quickly. I’m very aware of that.”