Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leeds United: Milanic plays down talk of head coach role

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/9/14
by Phil Hay
Darko Milanic has played down talk of him becoming Leeds United’s next head coach, saying he is yet to receive an offer from the Elland Road club.
Milanic, who coaches Sturm Graz in the Austrian Bundesliga, has emerged as the leading candidate for the job at Leeds after speaking with United owner Massimo Cellino.
The two men are understood to have discussed the vacancy on Sunday, though Sturm Graz say they have had no official contact from Leeds and Milanic claimed today that he was “focused 100 per cent” on his current position.
“In football there are always rumors,” Milanic told Sturm Graz’s official website.
“But to me there is no offer from another club. I’m focused 100 per cent on the job at SK Sturm.”
A club statement added: “To bring clarity to the matter, there (has been) no contact between the clubs.”
Milanic is under contract until 2016 and only a year into a job he took on at Sturm Graz last summer. Leeds would be required to pay compensation to bring him to England.
The 46-year-old - an ex Yugoslavia and Slovenia international - moved to Austria after a successful five-year spell in charge of Slovenian side Maribor, a period in which he won nine domestic trophies.
Cellino wants Milanic to replace David Hockaday,who was sacked as United head coach last month after only six games in charge.
The Italian made a move for Oscar Garcia before the recent international break but saw Garcia opt for the head coach’s job at Watford.
Alex Sabella, the man who led Argentina into this year’s World Cup and played for Leeds in the 1980s, is believed to have expressed a firm interest in the job at Elland Road but is unlikely to come into the reckoning unless Cellino’s bid to land Milanic fails.

Bournemouth 1 Leeds United 3: Whites storm back to earn a deserved win

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/9/14
by Phil Hay
A caretaker Neil Redfearn might be but Leeds United’s players are not selling him short. A new broom will attack their dressing room soon but in the meantime, the next man’s stand-in is being treated with all the respect he deserves.
The job of head coach is not destined for Redfearn and who knows if United’s academy boss ever wanted the stress or the insecurity but he is seeing Leeds through the interim with stoic resistance.
Unbeaten in three games in spite of everything and in contrast to the record of the coach whose sacking brought him to the touchline in the first place.
Leeds have taken seven points since David Hockaday’s dismissal and as much as their run does not change the need concerted movement off the pitch, Redfearn is holding the club together on it.
Massimo Cellino should be grateful for that. The Italian plan is not promotion at the first attempt but Cellino would like his maiden year in England to be calm and comfortable.
United could scarcely afford to lose the second month of the season as they almost lost the first and their form has turned for the better, however dramatically and however frantically.
A victory at Bournemouth last night – a venue where Leeds once went to town in every sense – required another frantic second-half push but the points when they came were earned and deserved.
No wonder that Cellino wants Hockaday’s replacement to keep Redfearn sweet and keep him close.
Hockaday had been out of a job for fully three weeks and a decision on his successor cannot be delayed forever but Cellino will not mind the status quo continuing for as long as Redfearn keeps the points coming. Some surety would help United to properly click. For now, they are ticking over tidily.
Their win at Dean Court was reminiscent of their draw at Birmingham City: tepid for 45 minutes but purposeful, aggressive and overwhelming in the second.
Alex Mowatt dug a point out of Saturday’s visit to St Andrews but was injured yesterday and in his absence, Souleymane Doukara, Giuseppe Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci stepped up to turn the game with Bournemouth on its head, Bellusci with a late and brilliant free-kick.
The final scoreline defied a desperately slow start and a goal scored in the opening exchangesby Andrew Surman, the former Norwich City midfielder, but United’s fightback took Leeds to a third win of the season and 13th in the league table. It is a more useful bargaining chip for any coach who Cellino sits down to speak with.
Cellino’s thought-process has gone far enough to rule Redfearn out of contention for the head coach’s post, and people around the Italian say he knows who he wants to take the job on.
Alex Sabella, the former Argentina coach who graced Elland Road in the early 1980s, seemed to imply that he wanted it – quoted as saying he had “unfinished business” at Leeds – but the link to him was described as a “red herring”.
A more likely option is Darko Milanic, the Slovenian coach of Austrian side Sturm Graz. Cellino is understood to have identified Milanic as a potential and capable candidate after failing to tie down Oscar Garcia at the start of the international break.
Milanic has been Sturm Graz’s boss for the past year having previously coached Maribor for a successful, trophy-laden spell, but the Austrian club said last night that there had been “no contact” from Cellino about his availability. They did not say whether they would be willing to talk.
Cellino spoke about the vacancy yesterday but only to say that opportunistic agents trying to maneuver their clients into position would be disappointed and ignored.
Redfearn has followed his own mind for the past three games and he kept the core of his team intact at Dean Court, replacing Mowatt and dropping Casper Sloth on the strength of the last half-hour in Birmingham on Saturday, a period when Doukara and Rodolph Austin gave United a shot in the arm.
Intensity was Redfearn’s overwhelming requirement at Bournemouth, a ground where Leeds took a severe and humiliating beating during the run-in last season.
Given freedom to play, Bournemouth were slick and ruthless after 4-0 up inside 51 minutes. That game ended a manic 48 hours in which the Football League officially moved to block Cellino’s takeover.
Last night’s contest threatened to stoop to that level as Leeds walked into it with the same fragile attitude. Bournemouth had every second of the opening few minutes and scored after six as an unmarked Andrew Surman curled a neat shot around Marco Silvestri from 20 yards.
Bournemouth’s attitude kept Leeds penned in their half for 20 minutes and moments of light relief were few.
Antenucci turned the ball past Lee Camp in Bournemouth’s goal but a while after Doukara’s run had brought an offside flag, and Silvestri intervened again to flick a drive from Matt Ritchie over his crossbar. That chance succeeded in waking Leeds up but only for a time.
Silvestri was dragged back into proceedings in the 25th minute, smothering the ball at Yann Kermorgant’s feet after the striker broke through with the help of a dubious challenge on Jason Pearce, and United’s chances came on the counter-attack as Eddie Howe’s side played with a high line and players up the pitch. Tommaso Bianchi’s high, hopeful attempt 10 minutes before half-time was at least the product of some meaningful pressure.
More came after the interval as an unchanged line-up started to make Bournemouth work. Camp was untested initially – the experience of many goalkeeper who have faced Leeds this season – but the minutes no longer ticked by with a sense of inevitability. Doukara and Austin began to force the pace as they had at St Andrews and Doukara brought the game level with a fine finish on 67 minutes.
The Frenchman timed his run nicely to take the ball in his stride and steady himself 12 yards from goal before pinging a low shot across Camp and into his net. Doukara had barely recovered from his celebration by a corner flag when Sharp broke away, turned his marker inside out and dragged a scuffed effort inches wide.
Bellusci snatched the lead on 82 minutes by crashing a free-kick off the underside of Camp’s bar and Antenucci settled the game at the very end of normal time when he sprinted onto a through ball, left Bournemouth’s defence trailing behind him and slipped the ball past an exposed and apologetic keeper.
Game over, game won. Hockaday’s replacement suddenly has an act to follow.

Bournemouth 1 Leeds United 3: Antenucci caps fine comeback victory for Leeds

Yorkshire Post 17/9/14
Guiseppe Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci inspired Leeds United to a second-half Italian masterclass in the 3-1 win at Bournemouth.
Andrew Surman had curled a left-footed opener for the Cherries after six minutes but despite a string of fine chances, they could not build on the lead.
Souleymane Doukara equalised with a calm finish on 66 minutes, centre-back Bellusci sent a stunning long range free-kick into the top corner a quarter of an hour later, while Antenucci rounded things off.
Bournemouth would have been ahead earlier but for a wonder save from goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, who tipped a curling Ryan Fraser shot around the post after two minutes.
Neil Redfearn named four Italians in his starting line-up but Silvestri could do nothing about former England Under-21 international Surman’s first goal since re-signing on transfer deadline day.
After Surman’s strike, Eddie Howe’s men went in search of number two in a bid to try and avoid any last-minute mishaps, such as the one they suffered against Rotherham at the weekend.
Matt Ritchie had a shot saved down low by Silvestri and only some frantic last-ditch defending kept the lively Callum Wilson from letting fly in the box.
After Ritchie had forced Silvestri into a fingertip save from his spectacular 30-yard drive, Wilson had the chance to bag his fifth of the season after 25 minutes.
The former Coventry striker won the leg race with Jason Pearce but after taking it past Silvestri once to leave the goal gaping, the goalkeeper dived at his feet to stop the danger.
It took half-an-hour before the away side finally started to see some of the ball but they were struggling to get the final pass into the reliable Billy Sharp.
While owner Massimo Cellino may be in favour of former Leeds midfielder and ex-Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella to take over at Elland Road, Redfearn fired his side up for the second half.
The visitors enjoyed a spell in their opponents’ half and after Andy D’Urso had turned away strong penalty appeals at each end, got their deserved equaliser after Doukara finished from Tommaso Bianchi’s pass.
Moments later former Southampton man Sharp picked the ball up just outside the centre circle and galloped at the heart of the defence but dragged his shot inches wide with Camp stranded.
Neither team were settling for a point and introduced attacking substitutions to go for the three points.
And it was the Leeds fans who went home ecstatic with the two rapid goals completing a deserved victory.
Bellusci’s 30-yard free-kick flew into the top corner and left Camp helpless.
And after the wonder-strike, the stage was set for Antenucci to pick up on a Doukara through ball and round off a well-deserved second win in three games for the Yorkshire outfit.
Redfearn said he would be handing over Leeds United’s squad in a “far better position” than he found them.
Redfearn is nearing the end of his third spell as caretaker boss amid strong suggestions that Slovenian Darko Milanic, the current manager of Sturm Graz, is in line to take charge as head coach at Elland Road. Milanic has been identified by Leeds owner Massimo Cellino as his preferred replacement for David Hockaday and the 46-year-old is understood to have spoken to Cellino on Sunday.
His Austrian club, however, denied that Leeds had approached them to discuss Milanic’s availability, with a spokesman saying: “There’s been no contact between Sturm Graz and LeedsUnited.”
Redfearn has taken seven points from three games and guided United back into mid-table in the Championship after a poor start to the season.
“It’s in a far better position now and that’s the most important thing,” said Redfearn.
“The lads are playing with confidence and with mental toughness.
“I’m part of this family at Leeds United whatever happens and I’m helping the cause. I’ve not done myself any harm.
“For the first half hour they murdered us,” said Redfearn. “The goalkeeper was outstanding and he kept us in the game. If it had gone 2-0 then it would have been difficult but we got ourselves back into it.”

Leeds United: Ex-Whites ace Harte attacks United owner Cellino

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/9/14
Former Elland Road defender Ian Harte launched an astonishing attack on Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino ahead of last night’s game at Dean Court.
Writing in Bournemouth’s matchday programme, Harte hit out at Cellino’s decision to appoint David Hockaday as head coach, criticised the spate of redundancies at Elland Road during the summer and accused the Italian of failing to invest in United’s squad.
Harte, who spent more than a decade on the books at Leeds before leaving in 2004, said: “Leeds United is a massive club with an amazing fan-base and it just needs to sort itself out and get back to the Premier League. Unfortunately they are a million miles away at the moment.
“When Mr Cellino brought in David Hockaday I just felt sorry for him. Coming from somewhere like Forest Green, if you are asked to manage Leeds United, who would ever say no?
“However, it felt like he was just a puppet on a string and it was clear who was pulling those strings.
“I think now they need to get a proven manager and a strong manager, who will be allowed to bring in his own players and be in control of the team.
“At the time of writing, there hasn’t been an appointment but I think someone like Steve Clark would be a fantastic person for Leeds.
“Unfortunately, someone of his calibre doesn’t come cheap and it doesn’t look like Mr Cellino wants to spend any money. He sold Ross McCormack for around £11m and it hasn’t really been reinvested yet.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to say hello to many people (before last night’s game) as most of those who were at the club when I was there were sacked over the summer.
“There were some people who had been there for many years, who had put their life and soul into the club, and then were told they weren’t required any more.
“I think it’s a lack of respect but I’m not the one funding the club so he will continue to do what he wants.”

Redfearn reveals what he said to Leeds players at half-time to inspire comeback

Here is the City 17/9/14
Dan Coombs
Leeds United boss Neil Redfearn has revealed how he inspired the comeback win over Bournemouth.
Leeds United caretaker boss Neil Redfearn oversaw another win, his second in three games in charge of the club.
Owner Massimo Cellino may prefer to keep him in charge of the academy, but the 49-year-old is busy demonstrating he has what it takes.
At half-time at the Goldsands Stadium, it appeared Leeds may be heading to their first defeat under his stewardship, but they oversaw a 1-0 deficit to win 3-1.
Speaking after the match to Leeds United TV he was asked what he said at half-time, and his answer showed he has the man-management part of the game sussed.
He said: "The biggest thing was to make them aware of how good they are, what they are about and where they've just come from.
"They've just beaten Bolton 1-0, just drawn at Birmingham 1-1, you know, outplayed Birmingham in the second half, they (Leeds) are a good side.
"They've got to start believing that, and Bournemouth's a good side (too.) We've locked horns with them tonight and we've shown what we're capable of."

Leeds United: Milanic in Frame

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/9/14
by Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn said he would be handing over Leeds United’s squad in a “far better position” than he found them in last month after a barnstorming fightback secured three points at Bournemouth.
Redfearn is nearing the end of his third spell as caretaker boss amid strong suggestions that Slovenian Darko Milanic, the current manager of Sturm Graz, is in line to take charge as head coach at Elland Road.
Milanic has been identified by Leeds owner Massimo Cellino as his preferred replacement for David Hockaday and the 46-year-old is understood to have spoken to Cellino on Sunday.
His Austrian club, however, denied that Leeds had approached them to discuss the Milanic’s availability, with a spokesman telling the YEP: “There’s been no contact between Sturm Graz and Leeds United.”
Milanic is a former Yugoslavia and Slovenia international who made his name as a coach during five years in charge of Maribor, a club where he won numerous trophies.
Cellino missed United’s dramatic 3-1 victory at Bournemouth but he appears to be closing in on his next appointment. Redfearn – Leeds’ academy manager – said he was yet to learn if he would be in charge for Saturday’s Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town but his side recovered from a goal down to win his third match as caretaker at Dean Court last night.
“It’s in a far better position now and that’s the most important thing,” Redfearn said. “The lads are playing with confidence and with mental toughness.
And he praised keeper Marco Silvestri whose first-half saves prevented Bournemouth from stretching their lead.
“For the first half hour they murdered us,” Redfearn said. “The goalkeeper was outstanding and he kept us in the game.”

Neil Redfearn praised Leeds after win over Bournemouth

Sky 16/9/14
Leeds caretaker manager Neil Redfearn praised his Italian imports as Giuseppe Bellusci scored a stunner on the way to a 3-1 Sky Bet Championship win over Bournemouth.
Redfearn, who is not yet sure if he will be in the dugout against Huddersfield on Saturday, saw Bellusci crack a 30-yard free-kick into the top corner after 81 minutes to put his side ahead.
Souleymane Doukara had earlier cancelled out Andrew Surman's early opener, before Mirco Antenucci sealed the three points with just minutes remaining.
Redfearn, who named four Italians in the starting line-up, believes the new players are starting to settle and will be a joy for the new boss to work with.
Redfearn said: "I think Bournemouth showed for 30 minutes they are the best footballing team in the league, they murdered us in that period but we took confidence from only going in 1-0 down.
"It was an outstanding goal from Giuseppe. I didn't see that coming, when he was lining up I thought it has got to go in or hit row Z otherwise they will break away. It was outstanding.
"The Italians are buying into what we are doing and it is a pleasure to watch and work with. Mirco is doing English lessons, he even understands a few swear words now, they love the game.
"I am enjoying being in charge and the club is in a far better position than when I took over. The lads are playing with confidence.
"I know Massimo Cellino has got a coach in mind and if he wants me to work with the new guy then great. This might be the start of something if we keep building the momentum."
Surman curled his first goal in more than two years past an inspired Marco Silvestri after six minutes to give the home side the lead.
After Silvestri had superbly kept out a Matt Ritchie drive and Ryan Fraser curler, the Yorkshire club got themselves back in the game when Doukara calmly finished under Lee Camp on 66 minutes.
Antenucci then raced on to a Doukara through-ball to bag his first for the club and seal his side's second win in three games.
A despondent Eddie Howe, whose Cherries have not won in five league games, said: "I felt we needed to get two or three goals to reward our dominance.
"We need to be more clinical but what I will say, which is unlike me, the referee was really poor today for us.
"We will not change our principles. For me this is the best way to play football and to get consistent results and to move the club forward.
"We will not revert to long ball football and the principles will always remain while I am in charge."

Leeds steal win with stunning fightback

Telegraph 16/9/14
By Gordon Simpson
When it comes to Leeds United, drama is rarely in short supply. There was plenty of it in evidence here, as the managerless Whites launched an improbable late fightback to win a match Bournemouth had dominated.
The result was another feather in the cap of Neil Redfearn, the caretaker manager whose side have earned seven points in the three games since he replaced the sacked Dave Hockaday.
Nonetheless Massimo Cellino, the Leeds owner, insists that Redfearn is not in the running for the position on a permanent basis.
Darko Milanic, manager of the Austrian club Sturm Graz, is the latest to be linked with the post, as well as Alejandro Sabella, the former Leeds player who guided Argentina to the World Cup final this summer, and Redfearn is unsure whether he will be in charge when Huddersfield visit Elland Road on Saturday.
He said: “I know Massimo has got a coach in mind, and people in mind, but I will leave that process to him. I’ve enjoyed being in charge. I think the lads have responded well. We’re in a far better position now. The supporters have suffered for a while, but this might be the start of something.”
Ahead of making an appointment, Cellino received some advice from a former Leeds player, although he would not have liked much of what the Bournemouth left-back Ian Harte had to say in the programme. Harte accused the Italian of treating Hockaday as a “puppet”, suggested it did not look like he wanted to spend any money, and slammed him for a “lack of respect” because Leeds sacked people this summer who had “put their life and soul into the club”.
Those comments will not go down well with Cellino, but many may agree with another of Harte’s assessments, that Leeds should hire a “proven, strong manager”.
They were overwhelmed in the opening half-hour by Bournemouth, who led after Andrew Surman’s crisp low strike from the edge of the area in the sixth minute. In a breathless start, the Cherries were also twice denied by fine saves from Marco Silvestri, while Callum Wilson wasted a great chance when clean through.
They paid for their profligacy when Leeds produced an unlikely rally to win the game.
Souleymane Doukara levelled midway through the second half, finding the bottom corner after being played through by Tommaso Bianchi.
Giuseppe Bellusci then found the top corner with a 25-yard free-kick, before Mirco Antenucci broke clear in the 90th minute to add a third.
Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager, whose team are now without a win in five league games, said: “We really should have come in with more than a goal’s lead. We have to be more clinical.”