AS 2014 ended with the familiar feeling of defeat for Leeds United, the chances of the club having a contender for manager of the month just a few weeks later seemed remote.
Ditto Luke Murphy, again missing from the 18-man match-day squad for that December 30 loss at Derby County, being nominated for the Championship player-of-the-month award in January.
This, though, was the news United fans awoke to yesterday morning as the club’s unbeaten start to the year was reflected in both Neil Redfearn and Murphy being named on the shortlist for the two awards.
Redfearn faces competition from Middlesbrough’s Aitor Karanka, Mark Warburton of Brentford and Derby County’s Steve McClaren. The winner will be announced today, but just being on a shortlist with managers whose sides are all chasing promotion is testament to the impressive work done by Redfearn since the turn of the year. Not that the 49-year-old is keen to take the plaudits alone.
“It has been a team effort, a big team effort,” said the Leeds head coach. “It is not just about one person, it is about everybody pulling in the right direction and we have definitely seen a shift. Things are going in the right direction.
“For me, it is nice to have this (nomination), but I would swap it for three points on Saturday.”
Brentford are the visitors to Elland Road tomorrow, meaning United’s four-game unbeaten run will be given a stiff examination.
Murphy will be one of the first names on Redfearn’s team-sheet, quite a turnaround for a player who did not start another game in 2014 following his red card at Bradford City in August’s Capital One Cup exit.
Four brief cameos from the bench were all the 25-year-old managed, suggesting the club’s £1m signing might be on his way out of Elland Road. Redfearn, however, brought Murphy back into the fold in the FA Cup third-round defeat at Sunderland and has been rewarded with a string of fine displays.
The United chief said: “I go back to the conversation we had about getting him in a better place and I just felt that if we could do that, he is a good player.
“That is the bottom line. Good players don’t become bad players overnight.
“Sometimes, though, the circumstances aren’t great. To be fair to Luke, he has shown mental toughness and desire to get better, to put himself in a better position. He deserves all the credit that has come his way.”