Why Leeds Must Not Hire Another Wild Card Manager
Quick note to Cellino: Please don’t mess up the progress made under Redfearn by bringing in a manager who is going to spend half a year feeling his way around the language, the customs and the inner ring road.
Like many, including Cellino, I don’t think Neil Redfearn is the man to take us forward full time but at the moment he is making a very good case for it. Cellino historically sees his youth set ups as a vital component in terms of keeping first team wages down and creating a sell-on revenue stream. Redfearn is too important to this progress to risk the highwire act that is the first team coach’s post.
However if you judge a game by the result then NR has us in promotion form.
The performances on the pitch for most of the game time haven’t been quite so reassuring but Redfearn has shown an understanding and use of the squad that Hockaday failed to manage in his short time in charge.
Look across NR’s chosen matchday squads for the last two games, examine the results, note his timely substitutions, consider individual performances and and you can see genuine progress.
Here are the highlights: The new keeper, Silvestri, continues to look a very good player. He’s commanding, lean, agile and fearless - he has also, in the last two games alone, stopped goals when facing down players one on one. He handles well and is an excellent shot stopper. And at key times too. Forgive him his cornrows and follow him on Twitter, his girlfriend Sofia Jamal is very supportive.
Silvestri's missus: very supportive
Playing both Cook and Mowatt so early on in the season is both crowd-pleasing and a clear incentive to the other youngsters around the fringes of the first team. Smart moves by Redfearn. Cook had a shocking first half at Bournemouth giving the ball away frequently and getting skinned out of position – had he not been a homegrown player he’d have been getting loads of stick – but he improved significantly in the second half. He wants the ball, moves about with it confidently, and doesn’t look like he’s only 17. Likewise Mowatt is a player who wants to make a difference to a match. His exclusion under Hockaday was in itself a clear example of why DH wasn’t equipped to coach at this level.
Bianchi I’m not so sure about. He’s the king of one-touch football, giving it as soon as he’s got it, and at times that looks like a refusal to accept responsibility. Having said that his ball through to Doukara’s goal on Tuesday was inch perfect. The assist got us back into the game.
Physically, the big man Doukara reminds me a lot of Clyde but has a few more tricks around the area. When I reviewed the Swindon match I said he looked like he fancied it and his strength and confidence have been key recently against a higher class of opposition. If he sees more of the ball and plays in a tighter front two I think he will make a real impact.
Alongside him, Antinucci is definitely a talent. He finished his one on one confidently without having to go round the player or try some divvy PlayStation style dink that hits the cross bar or goes over as we’ve seen in recent years. He’s lightning quick when breaks through the middle of the pitch and I cant help thinking he’d be better off playing behind Doukara and Sharp.
Once they’ve worked out how the play the three of them together or alternate them into three sets of pairs things could improve even further. Redders doesn’t seem to have perfected the midfield and forward formation yet and that is definitely a work in progress but his reading of the games and use of subs has been peerless.
I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a manager who has so boldly changed the line-up and had it go his way. In the last two matches both Sharp and Warnock, experienced first team pros, have come off after an hour or so shaking their heads at the same time as the fans have been scratching theirs. But in both cases – when neither were playing badly - we’ve gone on to win points after the changes.
Doukara and Rudy gave us real power, strength and drive against Birmingham which knocked the home team onto the back foot. And at Bournemouth Byram became a threat on the right wing at the same time that Cooper appeared a little more safe and solid at our own left back position where Bournemouth had been doubling up players on him.
Warnock hadn’t been playing badly but he was keen to get down the wing and Cooper stayed in the traditional left back position and put in a couple of excellent tackles. This stemmed their attack down the right wing. Have a think about this – on Tuesday he put two defenders on with twenty minutes to go and we won the game.
The most important thing about this week’s games has been the resilience and also the attitude. Although they can lapse into long periods of disjointed play the team have keep going, kept looking for the opportunities and have not conceded again after going behind early on.
Bellusci The Beast has no right to that nickname in his orange-y/pink plastic boots but after a terrible bit of marking allowed Birmingham the lead last Saturday he made a bit of history with his amazing free kick on Tuesday night. It was truly breath-taking. All four goals we’ve scored this week have been of exceptional quality. If he can halt the defensive lapses and fire them in whenever we need one he’s that rare thing – a defensive match winner.
We’ve not played well enough throughout our games to think we can cruise up the league unchecked but we have hit some momentum and the team are clearly determined to get on with it.
You can’t help think about the old Hoddle-Gorman, Clough-Taylor, Keegan-Cox combinations where an older man is the number two to provide stability and support and wonder if that might help Redders in the long run when things get tough. Or a more idealistic scenario would be that he was allowed to carry on until it goes tits up and then head back to the youth. But any such situation would probably make either Cellino or Redfearn less keen to continue working together.
Neil Redfearn has shown we have a squad that is capable of doing well. I just hope to God Cellino appoints someone who knows and understands the lay of the land already rather than a total outsider again. He’s done that once already, he has stocked the squad well, the youth are holding their own. Now is not the time to throw another wild card in.