There is only one place to start: The Leeds United Supporters Trust and most reasoned Leeds fans think Neil Redfearn should continue next season (and beyond) in the job of Leeds United manager/head coach.
As such, we’d like to offer him our thanks for providing much-needed stability in our recent times of turmoil, and especially for keeping us in the Championship #thanksredders
The seeds of a crazy season (even by our standards) were set back in August with the appointment of Dave Hockaday (an appointment that perhaps made even no sense to Hockaday himself), a series of signings most of us had never heard of, interference from our majority owner (and sidekick Nicole) and his house guest (hands up who remembers Benito Carbone).
Yet, as all this unfolded, the coach who was to contribute more than anyone to ensuring we escaped a fall into L1 was quietly getting on with his job in our academy.
After four league games and two League Cup pantomimes, the Hockaday/Lewis experiment was terminated. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the idiocy of giving a coach just 6 games to prove his worth, it needed to be done, and it was best done quickly.
Enter Neil Redfearn, who in his first team selection showed boldness and an eye for young talent that still nine months later takes the breath away in a positive manner.
In just four league games we saw three wins and one draw … but more importantly, the first sight of Lewis Cook, the return of Alex Mowatt, the development of Charlie Taylor, and the resurrection of Sam Byram … all stimulated in that short, successful period. That September in itself would have been worthy of recognition alone.
Any thought-out response to those games, would have given Neil Redfearn the job there and then.
Alas this is Massimo Cellino’s Leeds United. Why make one gigantic mistake a season when you can make six or seven?
In came Darko Milanic, a man so culturally irrelevant to the Championship it was painful to see from day one.
The following six games encapsulated the fault lines in the “Massimo knows football” structure that was imposed. Performances declined, results were poor, and momentum was lost. It is perhaps useful to reflect on where the club was the day Milanic departed (or more accurately placed on two years’ gardening leave):
* Played 14 league games
* Won four (three under Redfearn)
* Drawn 4,
* Lost 6 (half under Hockaday, half under Milanic).
One can only imagine what the position would have been if Hockaday to Milanic had been direct… We were learning very quickly why Cellino had sacked so many managers/head-coach in Italy, it was because he employed so many poor ones and was repeating the mistake at Leeds United.
To be fair, Cellino did call for Redfearn again … and we are thankful that Neil had the grace to accept the invitation to bail the club out of the hole it found itself in.
Without being able to repeat the magic of September Redfearn admirably steadied the ship with two wins and a draw in five games, including ripping the then top-of-the-league Derby County to shreds. The mini-run took us from 19th to 15th. Redfearn was doing a decent job of inserting stability into the football operation, just in time for Cellino to insert instability to the whole club.
How any manager is supposed to keep things on track when the owner is at war with the Italian legal system, the football authorities and internally with anything with an opinion we don’t know.
What we do know is that from the day the Football League imposed its sanction for Cellino’s tax evasion conviction to the day Massimo finally understood he had to serve the ban, we had a seven league game period of stagnation.
We also had the bizarre situation of the majority owner rushing in loan signings (because we were under a transfer embargo), all from the same place his other less-than-successful signings had come from and two of the main ones – Cani and Ngoyi - carrying injuries. We can only be grateful to Redfearn that he stuck around, despite again the manager having little influence over incomings or exits.
As soon as Cellino departed (again we sat far too close to the bottom three) the team’s form changed again.
In 15 games 8 wins and 4 draws were accrued. We rose to the giddy heights of 11th. The young lads from Redfearn’s academy work were in full footballing form. The team was decent to watch. There was one of those senses of optimism that is usually followed by over-expectation.
Then it happened again, the ownership/board decided the three months of stability needed undermining, and across a wide swath of areas at the same time.
Coaches were sacked. Resignations (some actual, some fake), abounded. Players were “injured” en masse. Off-the-record briefings suggested managerial change was inevitable. All this was played out in the full eyes of the media.
During this time, Neil Redfearn showed class and dignity, despite having his integrity and loyalty undermined (the sacking of Steve Thompson bordered on a direct attack on Redfearn himself). The inevitable drop in results should not in the slightest be blamed on Redfearn.
The facts are clear as day: when Redfearn is allowed to get on with his job, unhindered by the interference of others, he gets results.
When the club is dragged into inexcusable turmoil Don Revie or Howard Wilkinson would struggle to get results. This is why the Trust stated in our “Leadership Statement” of April 9 that we needed:
* Neil Redfearn being given the contract extension his record this season demands.
* Neil Redfearn to decide who his coaches are (whether that includes Thompson or not).
* Massimo Cellino to promise to leave footballing matters to the manager and his staff, regardless of whether Nicola Salerno is replaced or not.
These demands are still true today. They are the basic requirements of a stable footballing structure, one that allows both Neil Redfearn the chance to take his proven ability to identify good players further, and shows the basic appreciation of his work this season.
The Trust and the support can’t thank Redfearn enough for survival, can’t appreciate him enough for the talents that have come through the Thorp Arch academy, can’t shout from the roof-tops loud enough just how much we want to see him in the dug-out (hopefully with a full coaching contingent) when 2015-16 commences.
This club has needed some small sign of continuity for a long time, both off and on the pitch.
Off it we look like having to wait some time for this to come, but on it we have an opportunity to finally achieve this.
For too long, short-termism has ruled the Elland Road roost. It’s time for a different approach. Only we can ensure that different approach by demanding it loud and clear.
Let’s have our voice heard so the club get the scale of feeling about him being rewarded for the magnificent job done under trying circumstances.
Let’s sing his name from the rafters and give him a heart-felt thank you well deserved.
The Leeds United Supporters Trust thanks Neil Redfearn for his brilliant work in 2014-15 and we look forward to thanking him again for years to come.
We call on all sections of Leeds United’s support to join the Trust in turning this Saturday into #thanksredders day.
Click the above banner to show your support and thanks to Neil Redfearn