When the moment of Simon Grayson’s inevitable departure duly arrived, Shaun Harvey - while typically brushing over the issue that the decision had been conveniently made to coincide with the closing of the transfer window - released an official club statement explaining that the decision was made in order to give the new Leeds United manager as much time as possible to secure a play-off position.
The wording of the press release, if nothing else, suggested at least a recognition of a need for urgency if the Whites were to rescue this season, yet 11 days on and we’re seemingly no nearer an appointment, indeed on the basis of Bates’ last radio address, this will still be the case another week down the line.
Now the fact that board have yet again failed the supporters comes as little surprise, indeed the revelation that Harvey had chosen to go on holiday in the aftermath of the sacking and Bates has ruled out a return to Yorkshire until March simply re-affirms the utter negligence of on the field issues that continues to pervade club policy.
However, what has driven me to despair is the way in which many supporters have merely accepted the situation. Some people seemingly still give credence to the drivel the YEP still allow Peter Lorimer to spout forth on a weekly basis. But surely even those people, the ones who believe that a target spend of 35% of turnover on the playing staff is an acceptable way to run a football club, cannot be pacified by the prospect of Leeds United again trying to do things on the cheap by manoeuvring Neil Redfearn into the manager’s office…surely not?
Tragically it would seem that I am wrong. Indeed, even some of more ‘enlightened’ elements are philosophically taking it on the chin. The mantra appears to be that “Redfearn deserves a chance” to stake his claim – NO HE DOES NOT!!!
There is one simple, irrefutable reason why Redfearn should not even, for a moment, be considered. It’s concise and should really serve as a reminder to those who contemplate otherwise; it’s because:
WE ARE LEEDS UNITED!!!
Yes, that’s right! Remember? One of the biggest clubs in English football; a club that attracts a national and worldwide following that all but a very select few others can even dream about! We’re a club that brings home supporters out in their droves, every time we visit their town. We’re a club that even after years in the doldrums could command an FA Cup sell-out at Old Trafford within hours of tickets going on sale, who similarly attracted full houses at White Hart Lane and the Emirates. We’re a club that although despised by many in the higher echelons of the game, are also missed in at least equal measure. We’re a club who had a following of 55,000 in Wembley for a League One play-off final (and could have sold many thousands more had the Football League not made such a mess of the ticket allocations), who took over 10,000 to Madrid for a ‘dead rubber’ Champions League tie, who can sell out 6,700 tickets for venues like the Ricoh Arena and Oakwell.
Have so many supporters forgotten about this; brainwashed into pitifully low expectations by the ceaseless Bates regime propaganda that’s been relentlessly spewed through the club’s media outlets? Seemingly they have.
Yet despite this alarming widespread acceptance of mediocrity, of a philosophy of competing with the Doncasters and Watfords, those with an outsiders’ perspective can at least still appreciate what the club potentially represents. When names of the stature of Raddy Antic and Sven Goran Eriksson express a firm interest in the Leeds job, it’s a reminder of the club’s standing within European, never mind Championship football. While neither man – particularly the latter – would bring a cast iron guarantee of success, their representations to the club illustrate the cache that a well-run, ambitious Leeds United would still possess, even existing out of the Premier League limelight.
So mindful of the pedigree of some of the names interested in the job, including that of the ideal candidate in our current situation, Neil Warnock, why should anyone even entertain the thought of Neil Redfearn? Big clubs appoint big names, those aspiring to regain such status seek out proven experience, or at least exciting promise…neither merely settle for convenience. Very rarely these days would an ambitious outfit seek to appoint from within.
The club would argue that Redfearn has made an immediate impact; if you believe Bates, the team looked like world beaters in “demolishing” Bristol City. Having been to that game (unlike Bates) I saw an entirely different display where Leeds were outplayed by 11, then 10 men, before finally getting to grips with the game following the second dismissal. It was a display comparable with many of the worst of Simon Grayson’s reign and ironically stood in stark contrast to the opening hour of his predecessor’s final game. Against Brighton, the same trait of defensive errors cost the side any chance of picking up points – do these two games represent a tangible improvement? Not in the slightest!
Secondly is the assertion that the players like Redfearn. Well how marvellous! Quite frankly, after witnessing so many pitiful, passionless showings from this team this season, the last thing the squad requires is mollycoddling. They need somebody who goes into the dressing room, looks them straight in the eye, and makes it clear in the bluntest of terms that they play for the shirt, week in, week out or they find a new club. It was of little surprise hearing support from McCormack, but you would expect little else from a man who spent more of last season playing reserve football under Redfearn than he did for the first team; you’d also expect kind words from those who’ve graduated through the youth set-up as well – albeit it should be noted that their opportunities have been gained through performances at other clubs, not under Redfearn – regardless, this new found joy hasn’t manifested itself out on the pitch.
We also had captain Lonergan praising Redfearn’s tactical nous after the Bristol game. What were the intricacies of this tactical master class? To keep things solid – Eureka! We appear to have a real visionary on our hands here…if you forego consideration of how busy our keeper was at Ashton Gate, oh and the shambolic final half hour yesterday. But never mind that, that’s just another inconvenient truth designed to de-rail the propaganda machine.
Then there’s Redfearn’s seeming lack of a philosophy, of confidence, drive, ideas and ambitions. Listening to his post-match dissection provided yet another depressing chapter to this sorry season. He spoke of the same things that Grayson did, about tightening up at the back, about concentration, about hard work on the training ground. He saw fit to praise the players’ efforts (no wonder they like him) but most alarmingly, he also revealed his mindset. When asked about the equaliser, he replied “…having got 1-1, the last thing you want to do is get beat” – we were playing Brighton at home! Any criticisms from the terraces about Redfearn not possessing a winning mentality as Andros Townsend was left to warm up until the closing minutes, fully vindicated by that one statement!
Where was his ambition? Where was the assertion that he was looking to grasp this opportunity with both hands? Where was the rhetoric about implementing new ideas? Were these the words of an inspirational, talismanic leader of men, capable of dragging a club off its knees and instilling the belief necessary for a promotion campaign? I think not.
While I stated that big clubs who prosper don’t appoint with convenience as their chief criteria, that’s not to suggest that the ideal candidate can never be found by promoting from within, it’s just an extremely rare occurrence. The last such instance at Leeds was of course David O’Leary; now contrast his approach when offered a chance to impress his employer. O’Leary was bold from the very outset, stating very firmly that he wanted to take the club in a new direction and he backed those words up, immediately instating Jonathan Woodgate and Stephen McPhail in the first XI for his opening game at Nottingham Forest. He spoke passionately about the club, his ideas and where he wanted to take us.
Nothing that’s been said in support of Redfearn stands up to stringent examination, he shouldn’t even merit a second thought as potential candidate. I’ve found nothing at all to support his case, but even while some of the “benefit of the doubt” brigade remain, one look at his track record should alone resoundingly close the case for the prosecution before Bates, Harvey or Lorimer choose to try and argue any further: P
Pl W D L
Halifax Town (caretaker manger): 30th Aug 2001 – 12th Oct 2001 8 2 2 3
4th Mar 2002 – 25th Apr 2002 11 3 1 7
Scarborough: 24th Oct 2005 – 6th July 2006 29 5 7 17
Northwich Victoria: 19th June 2007 – Sep 2007 9 0 1 8
York City (caretaker manager): 21st Nov 2008 – 24th Nov 2008 1 0 1 0
Leeds United (caretaker manger): 1st Feb 2012 to present 2 1 0 1
Win percentage: 18%
Twice not considered not good enough for the Halifax Town job - that in itself exposes the folly of putting Redfearn in the frame for the post, but even more pointedly, it’s an examination of the permanent posts he's held that really ring alarm bells. Only 5 wins in 29 games at Scarborough is a shocking return, but even more worryingly, having been given the majority of the pre-season to build a side to reflect his philosophy at Northwich, he was sacked after 9 games – he collected a single point from a possible 27!!
Neil Redfearn is not and never will be the answer for Leeds United; he may be for Ken Bates, but as we know, by his own admission, the team remains Bates’ second priority. Most rational supporters know it and the LUFC Trust know it, and as the hugely successful ‘March for Change’ illustrates, an increasing number of fans are quite rightly buying into their ideals.
The LUFC Trust aren’t proposing anything revolutionary, they are simply campaigning for what we as Leeds United fans have a right to expect – ambition from the board, investment in players and a serious drive for promotion, and the appointment of the manager is the most pivotal decision for any such regime. If you haven’t joined, please do it now; who could possibly take issue with such a sentiment? Don’t settle for second best any more, not if the name of Leeds United is to count for anything!
In the meantime, I can only grasp on to the hope that the sighting of Keith Curle at Elland Road suggests that next Saturday’s visit of Doncaster provides the stage for Redfearn’s final hurrah.