NEIL REDFEARN last night insisted his decision to step into the firing line that has been the position of head coach at Leeds United under Massimo Cellino is far from a gamble.
The 49-year-old, the club’s popular Academy chief since 2009, is on the verge of being appointed as the permanent successor to Darko Milanic.
Redfearn, who has thrashed out terms with Cellino and is “very close” to signing a 12-month rolling contract, will become United’s third appointment since the summer.
Giving up a post with the Academy that seemed the most secure at Elland Road to take charge of the first team seems risky due to Cellino’s well-documented propensity to sack managers.
Leeds’s head coach-in-waiting, however, is adamant that he has taken the right decision.
“In life, you have got to grasp things as they come along,” said Redfearn, who has had three previous spells as caretaker manager at Elland Road. “And if that means picking it (the job) up now and kicking on, so be it.
“You can spend the rest of your life worrying about things. But you have got to get on with it, to be positive and make things happen. I think we have got to be positive as a club. Whatever has happened has happened.
“If you back your ability, it shouldn’t be a gamble. In life – and with the best will in the world – you can set everything right and fail and you can set everything up right and succeed. You’ve got to be brave enough to go and do it.
“I have never been frightened of a challenge and this is a challenge. The difference, though, is that I have been here from the outset. I can see the bigger picture and where the owner is trying to take this club.”
Cellino’s impatient streak saw the Italian famously get through 36 coaches in 22 years at the helm of Serie A side Cagliari. It earned him the nickname ‘Manager-eater’.
Since arriving at Elland Road, he has been similarly ruthless with Milanic joining Dave Hockaday in lasting just six matches before being axed. Cellino also dismissed Brian McDermott twice in a matter of months.
For all that, though, Redfearn believes he can work with the Leeds president and bring some long overdue success to the club.
After dismissing reports that his promotion from the Academy had been in serious doubt due to him and Cellino being poles apart over terms, the new head coach said: “I had a good chat with Massimo.
“We went through one or two things and we are not that far away (on signing a contract). It is all good.
“I obviously wanted some assurances – where he saw me at the club and the club going forward. He said I was the future. I just wanted to know if that was still the case and he said ‘yes’.
“That has got to reflect in how the contract’s structured and certain things that are in it.
“Ultimately that was never ever the major stumbling block.
“But I want to be here for the long-term. I’ve been here for six and a bit years and I’ve developed this academy and it’s starting to come to the boil.”
Asked about his prospects in a job that this season has had a longevity to rival that of an adult mayfly, Redfearn replied: “He (Cellino) sees me there for a long haul but there are no guarantees in football. I am well aware of that.
“If it was as easy as guaranteeing wins then we would all be managers or head coaches. It has got to be worked at and earned.
“I am not any different to anyone else in charge of a first team. I have got to win matches and that is how it should be.
“The bigger picture is that whatever happens is for the good of Leeds United. If it is successful and it takes me on then great.
“If it’s a spell that doesn’t quite work out then my role will be back in the academy. That is how it will work out.”
United fans will be relieved to hear that Redfearn could return to the Academy if his stint with the first team does not work out as it would be an undoubted blow to the club if they lost a figure who is so highly-regarded in the game.
The first test for Redfearn in this hottest of hot seats will come tomorrow at Cardiff City.
“I want to get after Cardiff,” said the former midfielder, whose spell in caretaker charge earlier this season yielded 10 points from four games. “I want Cardiff to know they are in a game.
“This is a great honour for me. The Leeds United I knew as a boy is not the same animal any more but it is still Elland Road, it is still an all-white strip. The common denominators will always be there. This is a massive club.
“It has got a great tradition and the owner has a desire to make it great again. That is a genuine opinion and if I can be part of that down the line, it would be a fantastic honour.
“Before that, though, we have got some work to do. It is a case of knuckling down now and concentrating on the football.”