Former Whites vice-captain Shaun Derry says Leeds United fans, players and, above all, Neil Redfearn deserve decisions one way or the other from the man at the helm – Massimo Cellino. Phil Hay reports.
Former Leeds United midfielder Shaun Derry claimed last night that the loss of head coach Neil Redfearn at the end of this season would be “a continuation of the same mistakes the club have been making for years.”
Derry, United’s one-time vice-captain, spoke out in support of the 49-year-old after watching a “lonely” Redfearn manage Leeds through Monday’s 4-3 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The match brought an end to a bitter week in which the Elland Road club suspended Redfearn’s assistant, Steve Thompson, and put pressure on the Leeds boss to leave Mirco Antenucci out of his team due to a goal-related clause in the striker’s contract.
Redfearn resisted that pressure, using Antenucci as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers last weekend and starting him in the defeat to Wolves but Thompson’s suspension – a move which effectively ends the 50-year-old’s employment at Elland Road – left Redfearn alone in the dug-out for both matches.
His own position as head coach is rapidly coming to a head after the ex-Barnsley midfielder revealed that United are required by the terms of his contract to confirm whether or not they intend to renew his deal before the last game of the season on May 2.
Redfearn’s existing deal ends in the summer but Leeds have the option to retain him for another 12 months, an option they are yet to take up. His deal also includes a clause allowing him to return to his job as academy boss if United decide not to keep him on as head coach.
Derry, who was recently sacked as manager of Notts County, covered Monday’s game as a radio pundit and said it was “pretty obvious that the players and the supporters want Neil to stay in charge.”
“As far as I could see, the players are behind him and the fans are too,” Derry said. “I think they genuinely want him to succeed. The fans can see that there’s young, hungry, fresh blood coming through the system and I think they want him to be given a chance. Football’s about results, or that’s what we’re always told, and Neil’s results in the second half of the season have been really good. His best period has probable been better than or as good as any other period over the last two seasons. So I’d be giving him another chance too.
“Leeds have gone through far too many managers. They need to back their manager and put him on a level playing field with enough players and resources to have the same aspirations as the teams who are going for the top six. Or they can continue to make the same mistakes the club have been making for years.”
Derry talked up the performance of a young Leeds line-up at Molineux – a side which included four academy players, including debutant midfielder Kalvin Phillips – but said United could not hide from the lack of “proven quality” in their side.
“I really like Alex Mowatt and at times on Monday he was a stand-out performer,” Derry said. “All the kids can handle the ball and they’re comfortable in possession.
“What’s lacking around them are solid, dependable players at this level; proven quality players who know the Championship.
“With the greatest of respect to the foreign lads, when you come to a new country you’ve got to sort your own house out first. You’ve got to adapt and learn and they won’t be looking over their shoulders thinking ‘what’s Alex Mowatt doing?’ or ‘what’s Charlie Taylor doing?’
“Apart from the lads you develop yourself, you can only get top Championship players by putting your hand in your pocket. You get the occasional quality ‘Bosman’ but most clubs get onto those in January. The quality free transfers this summer probably know where they’re going already. If they’re going to Leeds, great. If they’re not then the club are going to have to spend. Either that or spend another season halfway down the league. I know from my time at Leeds that everyone there craves better things. There must be an element of envy, or frustration really, in seeing Ipswich, Bournemouth, Brentford, Watford up there. Year after year you think ‘why can’t that by Leeds?’”
United’s strategy for summer transfers is unlikely to be any clearer than several other key issues at Elland Road. Nicola Salerno, the club’s sporting director and a man heavily involved in the arrival of 15 new players at Leeds last year, has resigned from his position in the past week. His departure came in the wake of Thompson’s suspension, a decision which Leeds said Salerno had made personally.
Massimo Cellino, United’s disqualified owner, is banned from running the club until May 4, two days after Redfearn is contractually due to receive clarification about his future. The Italian is planning to return to England from Miami in the next 10 days. Having threatened to consider his position last week, Redfearn now appears committed to seeing out the last five games of the season.
“I felt very sorry for him on Monday,” Derry said. “There was no-one with him in the technical area. It was a lonely situation. He was basically stood there on his own for 90 minutes. Twenty yards up the pitch you’ve got Kenny Jackett (the Wolves manager) with Joe Gallen, his trusted lieutenant. Looking from above it told it’s own story. I think Leeds owe everyone a decision and Redfearn most of all.”