Yorkshire Evening Post 19/5/15
FOR NEIL REDFEARN, the end of the road at Leeds United looks nigh, but he can certainly hold his head up high for his sterling work in wholly difficult circumstances in 2014-15.
The 49-year-old has endured a torrid crash course in management, but commendably shown his dignity throughout, with his ‘prize’ for providing a welcome sense of stability and bringing through a number of talented kids into the first team at Leeds likely to be the sack.
Redfearn endured plenty in 2014-15. From his number two Steve Thompson being suspended in mystifying circumstances on April 2 to six players refusing to play in the league game at Charlton Athletic on April 18 after declaring themselves unfit. And plenty more besides.
The Yorkshireman and boyhood Leeds fan has shown stoicism throughout and earned the respect of countless people in the football fraternity, not to mention Leeds United’s long-suffering fanbase.
Not in terms of respect for what he has had to put up with, but also his accomplishments on the pitch.
Without Redfearn and Thompson’s renaissance work early on in the New Year, United, in many people’s eyes, would have been in deep relegation trouble and in real danger of an apocalyptic descent into League One, which would have been an unmitigated disaster.
Anyone who saw United meekly go down 2-0 at Derby County on December 30 could not have avoided the conclusion that the rest of the season would have been a grim relegation battle.
Many at the time would have gladly taken a fourth from bottom finish. But in the event, United surpassed expectations and passed the traditional safety mark, 50 points, with eight games to go courtesy of a 3-0 win at Fulham on March 18.
Redfearn and Thompson deserve credit for a fine upturn in the first three months of 2015, with their accomplishments particularly noteworthy on the road.
Up until the end of March, Leeds lost just once in eight Championship away trips, bagging five wins and claiming 17 points from a possible 24.
That tally was equal to the amount they amassed from 23 league away matches in 2014, with United, under Redfearn’s command, having won six Championship games on the road so far in 2015.
In comparison, they won just four matches throughout 2014.
Redfearn’s reign provided hope, manifested in the rise of young players Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor, with several more Academy talents such as Kalvin Phillips and Chris Dawson having also been nurtured impressively by the head coach, who consistently spoke about the importance of showing a duty of care to Leeds.
Redfearn also helped steady the ship last term following the disastrous appointments of David Hockaday and Darko Milanic, who mustered a combined total of six points from 10 Championship matches in their respective spells at the helm, which in the final analysis represented relegation form.
In contrast, Redfearn pocketed 10 points from four games in charge on a temporary basis between August 28 and September 23.
Redfearn’s fifty per cent success rate in his temporary spell in the manager’s chair between Simon Grayson’s sacking on February 1, 2012 and the appointment of Neil Warnock just over a fortnight later also stood up favourably to the vital statistics of both Hockaday and Milanic.
While defeats arrived against Coventry City and Brighton and Hove Albion, two wins were secured in Redfearn’s four-game tenure against Bristol City and Doncaster Rovers.
As a further contrast, Warnock won just twice in his opening 10 matches in the hotseat.
Redfearn’s legacy is likely to be bequeathing the club again with some Academy riches, while in the short-term, also extinguishing the flames of a disastrous descent to relegation.
He can truly hold his head up high.