Neil Redfearn has challenged Leeds United to fight off interest in their young players this summer, saying: “If we mean business we’ll keep them.”
United’s head coach claimed speculation about potential bids for the academy products in his first team would “only be a worry” if Leeds decided to court interested clubs.
Redfearn is unclear about his future at Elland Road, nearing the end of a deal which the club have an option to renew for another 12 months, but he said his determination to see United’s prospects remain at Elland Road was unaffected by the doubts over his own job.
Sam Byram, Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt have been prominent figures in United’s side this season and another academy product, 19-year-old Kalvin Phillips, made his debut at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.
Byram was reported to be interesting Liverpool earlier this week and a scout from Hull City watched a goalscoring performance from Mowatt in a 4-3 defeat to Wolves.
The absence of from Leeds of banned owner Massimo Cellino and persistent rumours of takeovers at Elland Road have raised concerns that Leeds might be vulnerable to offers.
Cook and Byram are out of contract next summer while Mowatt and Taylor have two years to run on their deals. Phillips signed his first professional deal last summer.
But Redfearn said: “It’s only a worry if something happens. You’re always going to get speculation because they’ve been brilliant.
“I’d like to think that, if the message has always been that we’re planning and building, we keep these players. You don’t sell your best players. If we really mean what we mean - if we really mean business and if we are going to get promoted - then you don’t sell your better players. You keep them.”
Redfearn worked with all five of the youngsters during his time coaching in Leeds’ academy between 2009 and November of last year.
The 49-year-old said that people assuming that the general uncertainty at United - a club who suspended Redfearn’s assistant Steve Thompson last week - might tempt any of them to seek a transfer elsewhere were “misjudging the situation.”
“They misread the strength of feeling at this club and the strength of feeling amongst the players - the bond between the players and the fans,” Redfearn said. “People misread that.
“It’s important and for the first time in a long time, this club is actually quite together on the pitch and in the stands. It’s been drawn together. Long may that continue.
“Having been in (the first team), found their feet and proved what they’re capable of, they want to be part of this. You can see that. You tend to forget that some of these kids have been here since they were eight years old. They’ve been brought up on Leeds United.
“Football’s not straightforward but they’re very close as a group and I think it would be a real wrench for them to leave. So with that in mind, you hope they make the right decisions.”
The development of United’s young core has been a positive aspect of a season riddled with controversy and upset. Cellino’s Football League suspension - imposed due to his conviction for tax evasion last year - does not end until May 4.
Redfearn’s future has been the subject of intense focus recently but speaking ahead of tomorrow’s match with Cardiff City, the Leeds boss said: “I don’t want to start talking about all that.
“I‘ve stated that it’s important that I finish the season off for the club and the players. I’ve then got to sit down with the powers that be and discuss it.”