NEIL WARNOCK was last night locked in talks with Wolverhampton Wanderers over becoming the Premier League club’s new manager, the Yorkshire Post understands.
The 63-year-old is wanted by relegation-threatened Wanderers to lead their fight for survival following the sacking of Mick McCarthy earlier this week.
News of Wolves’ firm interest will come as a blow to Leeds United, who are expected to significantly step up their own search for a new manager over the next 48 hours after the experiment of handing Academy coach Neil Redfearn the reins on a temporary basis failed.
Leeds have lost back-to-back games and sit six points adrift of the Championship play-offs going into tomorrow’s derby clash with Doncaster Rovers, a fixture that is expected to see supporters again voice their displeasure at how the club is being run.
All may not be lost, however, for the Elland Road hierarchy with Warnock understood to still be interested in succeeding Simon Grayson even though talks with Wolves are at an advanced stage.
Former Sheffield United manager Warnock has also been linked with a possible return to Huddersfield Town since the dismissal of Lee Clark on Wednesday.
But it is believed the lure of either Leeds or the Premier League is likely to prevent an emotional return to a club he led to promotion in the mid-nineties.
Warnock, sacked by QPR around the turn of the year, is available after agreeing a financial settlement with the Loftus Road club’s lawyers this week.
Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce, also on Leeds’ radar, both spoke to the Molineux board about possibly succeeding McCarthy but it is Warnock who tops their list.
Whether Leeds now step up their own attempts to lure Warnock back to Yorkshire remains to be seen but it is has become increasingly clear in recent days that firm action is now needed.
The hope that Redfearn, hugely admired at the club for his sterling work with the Under-18s and reserves, could kick-start United’s season has proved a forlorn one.
Since being handed temporary charge, the 46-year-old has presided over one win and two defeats.
The sole victory came in his first game at Bristol City, after which chairman Ken Bates said Redfearn would remain in place for at least the next three matches.
Doncaster’s visit is the last of that trio of matches and Redfearn admits to being in the dark over what the club’s plans are beyond 5pm tomorrow.
He said: “I have not spoken to them (the board) about my situation. We have discussed one or two things with regards to Saturday but that is it.
“I am an employee of the club who is keeping an eye over everything until the club wants to make a decision about who is going to come in. That is still the case.
“I don’t know what is going to happen, to be honest. And the other thing is I haven’t really thought about it. All I want to concentrate on is looking after the players while I am here.”
United’s defeats to Brighton and Coventry City may have both come courtesy of last-minute goals. But the manner of both performances left a lot to be desired, suggesting that the current uncertainty over the managerial vacancy had left the squad unsettled.
Asked if that could be the case, Redfearn replied: “I should imagine so. Any uncertainty affects you as a player. It would be wrong to think otherwise but the club wants to make the right decision and whatever decision they make, I am here to help.”
Before stepping up to take charge of the first team in the wake of Grayson’s sacking, Redfearn combined his Under-18s duties with looking after United’s reserve team.
It has meant a re-jigging of the club’s coaching staff to leave both Redfearn and goalkeeping coach Andy Leaning free to look after the senior squad on a day-to-day basis. Asked by the Yorkshire Post if come Monday morning he expected to be working with the juniors again or the first-team, Redfearn replied: “That’s up to the club.”
Redfearn’s immediate future may be unclear but he is in no doubt as to what improvements the next permanent manager of Leeds will have to make if the club is to be successful.
He said: “The issues that are there are plain to see. We are struggling to keep clean sheets and that is one of the big things. It is not just a back four thing, it is about being difficult to beat right through the 11.
“That manifested itself in the Brighton game and the Coventry game. These are problems that whoever comes in will have to address.”
Two defeats in the past week have left Leeds, who will be without Fabian Delph tomorrow due to injury, six points adrift of the play-offs.
Another setback tomorrow against bottom club Doncaster is likely to inflict terminal damage to any lingering hopes United harbour of forcing their way back into the promotion race.
That point will be reinforced ahead of kick-off by Redfearn, who admits strong words were said in the dressing room at Coventry.
He said: “You want to win every game and if you don’t there is something wrong. That overflowed a bit at half-time at Coventry because I am competitive and I want to win.
“Players have got as big a responsibility as anyone else at the club and, to be fair, the work ethic they have put in through the week has been first class.
“No-one plays well all the time and you can’t guarantee a performance. But you can guarantee effort and work rate and that is something which disappointed me on Tuesday.”
United’s trip to Reading, scheduled for Saturday, April 7, has been brought forward a day to be shown live by Sky Television on Good Friday, kick-off 2pm.