MONDAY POLL: Opportunity knocks at Leeds for incoming Milanic

Darko Milanic.
Darko Milanic.
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DARKO MILANIC will be confirmed as the new head coach at Leeds United later today.

The 46-year-old stepped down as head coach at Austrian Bundesliga outfit Sturm Graz yesterday and is flying into the UK today to finalise his deal with Leeds.

Milanic is set to be joined by his assistant at Graz, Novica Nikčevič, at Elland Road, with the pair taking charge of United for the first time in Saturday’s Championship game at Brentford.

Milanic spoke with United president Massimo Cellino earlier this month and his release from his contract was secured on Friday after he activated a clause allowing him to buy his way out of his deal at Graz.

Graz confirmed United’s approach on Saturday with Milanic, fluent in several languages including English, taking charge for the final time in Saturday’s 1-0 win over FC Ried.

On his exit, Milanic, who guided Maribor to four Slovenian league championships and three Slovenian Cup wins prior to joining Graz on a three-year deal in June 2013, said: “It was not an easy decision to go. I really wanted to stay here longer.

“Sturm is my club and here I experienced great times as a player and a coach. I won new friends. But then an offer came from a different league, from another world.

“This is a tremendous opportunity that I had to accept simply because who knows when such an offer will come again?”

During his playing days as a centre-back, Milanic captained Slovenia at Euro 2000, having previously played for the former Yugoslavia national side.

An injury saw him retire as a player at 31 and led to him embarking on a career in coaching and management, with the next chapter now coming at Leeds.

Caretaker head coach Neil Redfearn signed off in impressive fashion in Saturday’s comprehensive 3-0 derby win over Huddersfield Town, which extended Leeds’s unbeaten run under his watch to four matches, which has seen the club take 10 points from a possible 12.

The academy chief – whose name was sung at regular intervals by home fans on Saturday – admits he has thoroughly enjoyed his third stint in temporary charge of United.

But as for the future, the 49-year-old reiterated he was comfortable with whatever decision Cellino made in regard to the coaching set-up, which is likely to see Redfearn work closely with the first team alongside his duties with the academy.

Redfearn said: “I had a 20-minute chat with Massimo beforehand (on Saturday), but it was all about the game.

“Whatever happens will happen. I have enjoyed myself and done myself no harm. The club is in a better position than it was.”

Adamant that Leeds can make a concerted play-off push if they continue to develop in the weeks and months ahead, he added: “This squad can threaten the top six. I have told the players the sky is the limit. We were excellent from first whistle to last.

“The good thing about the side is that it is very young and it is going to get better and better.”

Meanwhile, Huddersfield manager Chris Powell is planning on intensifying his search for loan recruits this week after admitting his side are in desperate need of reinforcements after being second-best at Elland Road.

Powell, still waiting for his first win in charge of Town, acknowledged his side were their own enemies in conceding three soft goals against Leeds, with the derby setback ensuring the visitors remain in the bottom three of the Championship with just one league victory this term.

All told, Town have won just three times in 21 league matches since the start of March and Powell says that he and his coaching staff have a big job on their hands to transform the club’s fortunes, while admitting that new additions are also required.

He said: “Goals change games and the goals primarily were our own doing. You cannot have basic mistakes like that in any game; let alone a big Yorkshire derby. They made us pay for them.

“There are one or two things we need to eradicate if we are going to try and move ourselves up.

“But we also do need to bolster, we really do. Looking at our squad at the moment, I think we need two or three players to come in and really get ourselves going.

“It is not going to be an easy season; I knew that from day one. We have a big job on our hands in regards to moving us forward and how our squad is and other squads in the league.

“There’s no hiding place in that respect. I know that and everyone else knows that.”

Elland Road report: Page 2.