Yorkshire Post 14/4/15
THE sense of bewilderment remains, but head coach Neil Redfearn is urging his Leeds United players not to allow the recent removal of assistant manager Steve Thompson to continue to overshadow the run-in.
United have lost all three of their games since Thompson was suspended and effectively told his time at Elland Road was over.
Twelve days on from a bombshell announcement that took even the club’s head coach by surprise, however, Redfearn believes Leeds have to move on or risk short-changing their supporters in the final four matches.
“What happened is frustrating,” said Redfearn ahead of
tonight’s clash with promotion-chasing Norwich City. “But it is like anything else. We either sit down, sulk and give up or we crack on.
“And we have got to crack on as a group of players and the football club has got to move on.
“For me, what happened was wrong. But if I dwell on it, it starts affecting everything else, and that is the last thing I want to do.
“We want to try and get the club in a better position. We have got ourselves safe from the mess we were in, and it was a mess – one point above the drop zone. The 52 points we now have is comfortably safe.
“That said, we don’t just want to be comfortably safe, we want to try and kick on now.”
United’s reverse at home to Cardiff City on Saturday was comfortably the worst of the recent trio of losses.
Redfearn’s men were a pale shadow of the side that has, even amid the chaos that has engulfed the club at times this term, enjoyed many high points.
Most of those have come against the top teams, with Leeds having done the double over leaders Bournemouth and Middlesbrough as well as taking three points off Derby County and Ipswich Town at Elland Road.
The October visit to Carrow Road also yielded a point on a night when Giuseppe Bellusci was accused of making a racist comment towards Canaries striker Cameron Jerome.
A Football Association disciplinary panel subsequently found the Italian not guilty and Redfearn does not expect the furore to impact on tonight’s fixture.
He said: “That issue got resolved. Both parties seemed happy enough and it got settled. The matter is closed.
“To be fair, we have a real mix of players from overseas with different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. We are really balanced as a group and are aware of things like this.”
Bradley Johnson will miss tonight’s return to his former club through suspension, but Jonny Howson, a former captain at
Elland Road who was sold after failing to agree a new contract, is likely to play.
“Jonny was a real ambassador for the club,” said former Academy chief Redfearn, a big fan of the former United midfielder. “He stood for everything that is good about the Academy and club.
“It will be good to see Jonny; he has turned into a real top, top performer and good luck to him.
“We were sat at the dinner table the other day and talking about all the players who have left and the side we would have had if we had kept half of them. It is not a bad side.
“This academy is doing something right and it turns these players out regularly. This is before me as well and the club should be proud of that fact and it’s pretty obvious the supporters are well aware of it. It is something we have to make sure always stays in place.
“I know it’s difficult and sometimes you have to sell players to balance the books and the football club is a business and a big club.
“But if you can keep your better players and particularly your young players and develop them and they have that understanding of what your club is about.”
Kalvin Phillips, the latest Academy graduate to roll off the Thorp Arch production line, scored on his home debut against Cardiff and is hoping to start again.
He could, though, give way to Chris Dawson, another highly-regarded youngster who made his debut in 2012-13 but has managed just two appearances from the bench since then.
Asked if he is tempted to blood a couple more youngsters before the season ends, Redfearn added: “I would like a team who compete at the top end of the Championship who are going to be successful.
“If it is a team full of academy products, why not? If it is a team mixed with academy products and signings, why not? I am open; I just pick good players and, by and large, the kids that I have brought in the side have proved me right.”
Lewis Cook, one of the youngsters to have starred this term, is again out along with the suspended Rodolph Austin.