MASSIMO CELLINO admitted today that the hunt for a new head coach at Leeds United remained wide open, saying he was yet to identify “anyone better” than caretaker boss Neil Redfearn.
Cellino will leave Redfearn in charge of United squad’s for Saturday’s visit to Birmingham City and potentially their game at Bournemouth next Tuesday after failing to secure a quick replacement for the sacked David Hockaday.
Leeds have been without a head coach since Cellino dispensed with Hockaday and his assistant, Junior Lewis, almost a fortnight ago.
United’s owner initially targeted ex-Brighton boss Oscar Garcia but saw Watford step in to appoint the Spaniard as their new head coach, and the search for Hockaday’s successor has slowed with Cellino away in the USA.
The Italian is expected to return to England on Thursday and renew his focus on the vacancy at Elland Road but Redfearn is preparing for United’s visit to Birmingham and is in line for an extended run in his temporary role.
Leeds’ academy manager handled the club’s 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers prior to the international break and is in his third spell as caretaker at Elland Road.
Cellino said: “He’s doing his duty like he always has. I trust him and his loyalty to the club.
“He deserves respect for his work and at this moment I can’t see anyone better than him to look after the team.”
Leeds have received numerous applications for the head coach’s job - including firm expressions of interest from Tony Mowbray and Chris Hughton - but Cellino is still to establish another preferred option having settled on Garcia as his first choice in the days after Hockaday’s departure.
Ex-Leeds and Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler was linked with the post this afternoon, though it is understood that he has not submitted a formal application.
Hughton, who has been out of work since his exit from Norwich City last season, indicated his interest in an interview with the BBC, saying: “There are lots of challenges out there and Leeds United is very much a challenge. I’m very keen to get back in at the right club.”
United are approaching a run of three Championship matches in eight days with a Yorkshire derby at home to Huddersfield Town following their trips to Birmingham and Bournemouth.
Redfearn said on Friday that he would work as caretaker for as long as Cellino asked him to, and the pair have spoken regularly since Cellino’s departure to America at the start of last week.
Redfearn said: “I’ve spoken with Massimo and the message was pretty simple - continue with what I’m doing, continue with my work and look after everything while he decides what he wants to do.
“Birmingham will come round quickly and I’ll prepare the team properly for that game. They need to be set up and organised so that one way or another we go there in the best possible shape.
“If I take that game then they’ll know exactly what I expect from them. I’ll be prepared for it and they will too. If someone else comes in before then, the new man has a team who are ready to go. That way it’s win-win.
“I’m not involved in (the search for a new coach) and Massimo’s going to take as much time as he needs. I’ll take care of everything for as long as he needs me to. He knows I’m happy to help.”