After our dismal 2-0 defeat away to Derby County on 30th December the future looked extremely bleak for Leeds United and our long-suffering supporters… What happened next is remarkable and the footings of a key summer were being laid.
Neil Redfearn gave chances to payers who were out in the cold in the FA Cup against Sunderland and despite losing 1-0 those players earned another chance, particularly Luke Murphy. Luke Murphy, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook have been a key part of our upturn in form along with Sam Byram moving into midfield. Packing out the midfield is something we had to do to evolve with the majority of championship teams and to match them, we however moved beyond them with our array of talented footballers combining to make a successful midfield. Whilst left midfield was a problem, another academy graduate, Charlie Taylor, has filled that role and excelled and really come of age this season. There is a debate had whether he would still be better at left back and seeing Antenucci come into the side on the left but at the minute, why change a winning formula?
Neil Redfearn, for me, deserves all the credit he is getting, he has developed a nickname on social media as “the mad scientist” which, is maybe a little wide of the mark. I will hold my hands up and admit that I have looked at a few team selections and wondered what the hell was Redders smoking?! But, maybe just maybe, we should actually start thinking that this guy knows what he is doing. Our academy is as good as it has been for a very long time, that is down to Redfearn who has been in charge of that, and is now bringing our academy graduates through to the first team and it is paying dividends. A lot of supporters say it makes a difference for a manager to trust his players, of course that’s true but it is also true the other way around. Another way of Redfearn working at Leeds is, and I believe the most important factor, he is one of us. He wants what’s best for the club, best for the players and best for the supporters and it is showing in our performances, the players only have us to play for now, we can’t go up, we can’t go down, but we can build for next season and we can give the fans something to cheer about.
Another player I feel deserves a mention is Gaetano Berardi, a player who all the fans, including myself were very quick to write off during the season, he has waited for another chance and he has grabbed it with both hands, he’s playing in a weaker position and he is still excelling.
The majority of these players deserve to be here next season, so do all the coaching staff and our manager. This bring me round to the point that we have to progress this summer and not have another summer of upheaval and mass change. Lets get our academy players signed up into contracts as well as our management. We all know we need to add another striker to the squad, one who can play the lone role and really provide some competition for Billy Sharp and Mirco Antenucci. We are definitely lacking some quality in some vital areas, but we can add to our already talented young squad and really move on next season, who knows, perhaps Redders already knows of some sat in the academy? It’s finally an exciting time on the pitch for Leeds fans, I just pray that we can keep our core group together and really move on.