IN THE only training session given to Neil Redfearn to plan and prepare for Saturday’s game against Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United’s caretaker quickly discovered why the club had paid £600,000 for Casper Sloth.
Redfearn wanted to revise United’s starting line-up after the end of David Hockaday’s failed reign as head coach and Sloth’s performance at Thorp Arch convinced him that the newly-signed Dane should be one of the 11.
“He looked bright as a button,” Redfearn said. “He’s so sharp and his touches are good. He finds space, he works hard and once he gets his feet under the table, he’s going to be a real asset.”
Redfearn was speaking with hindsight after Sloth’s commendable debut against Bolton. The 22-year-old earned a standing ovation when he was substituted late in the second half, applauded for his effectiveness as a number 10. For the duration of his 78 minutes on the pitch, £600,000 looked like money well spent.
Sloth is just as happy with his own decision to join what he calls the “project” at Elland Road. As one of 15 new players, moving to Leeds was a move into the unknown but also a transfer to a country where he wanted to play.
“In Denmark you see a lot of the Premier League,” Sloth said. “Not so much of the Championship but every footballer in Denmark wants to play in England. It’s a massive football country.
“I knew that Leeds were interested in me for some time. I knew the club and their history and I wanted to be part of the project here. They’ve got a lot of new players and it seemed really interesting.
“With where I was in my development, I felt that I had to move on. It’s a good time and I’m satisfied to be at this massive club.”
Sloth was signed from Aarhus, the Danish club were he turned professional in 2009. He debuted in Denmark’s Superliga as a 17-year-old and he was been spoken about for a while as one of the country’s finer prospects. His first full international cap came in 2012 and he played for Denmark against England in a friendly at Wembley in March. “That was a big experience,” he said.
Aarhus were relegated last season, however, and Sloth decided that the disappointing term would be his last with the club. His contract was up next summer and Leeds reached an agreement with Aarhus on August 22. Sloth accepted the move, despite an approach from Evian in France.
“When I was hearing about Leeds interest, I looked at it and spoke to people and I felt that it was a really good match for me,” he said. “There are a lot of new guys here, not only me, and that’s a good thing.
“It takes time to gel when you have so many new players and young players too but I think it will be good here. I hope to get a lot of games and grow as a player. That’s all I’m focused on right now – to do well at Leeds.”
Sloth thinks of himself as a box-to-box midfielder, though Redfearn’s use of him behind a front two of Billy Sharp and Mirco Antenucci was astute on Saturday. Redfearn appreciated his contribution going forward but said Bolton had been constrained further by Sloth cutting out passes to Jay Spearing in the centre of their midfield.
“I would say I’m more box-to-box,” Sloth said. “I like to get the ball, set the tempo and set my team-mates up. But it’s a nice position at number 10.
“My debut came really quick and I didn’t expect to start on Saturday. But it was really nice and nice to do it at Elland Road. We got a win and that was brilliant.
“It was a big experience and I’m already looking forward to playing there again. The crowd were very good and when I was subbed off they seemed satisfied. It’s been a good first week.”
Sloth was under the wing of Hockaday for little more than three days. He did not even have his international clearance before Hockaday was sacked by club owner Massimo Cellino, 24 hours after a Capital One Cup defeat at Bradford City.
Leeds have been in the hands of Redfearn this week, the third time that United’s academy manager has stepped up to take charge of their first team on a temporary basis.
Cellino thought he was close to appointing Oscar Garcia as Hockaday’s replacement last weekend but Watford stepped in quickly to take Garcia after parting company with Beppe Sannino.
With Cellino absent in the US, control of the senior squad remains with Redfearn amid suggestions from sources close to Cellino that having failed to secure Garcia, he is now considering Redfearn as a potential candidate for the vacancy.
Sloth said: “That’s not my point of view (business). The coach now is very good but I just look forward to playing. The club take care of the rest.”