IN TERMS of history, resources and fanbase, it is fair to say that Rotherham United and Leeds United are not equals.
But while any comparisons in that regard are not particularly worthwhile ones, the lines of demarcation are considerably narrower when it comes to squad quality – just ask new Millers manager and ex-Whites head coach Neil Redfearn.
After the final whistle of Redfearn’s last game in charge of Leeds on May 3 – against the club he now manages – just six Championship places and 10 points separated the White Rose pair.
For Redfearn, the gap between quality levels in both squads was clearly negligible, with the Yorkshireman admitting that he would have gladly signed several Millers players at Leeds during his time there in 2014-15.
But that, you sense, is very much another story.
On whether he would have recruited a select number of Rotherham players if the opportunity had arisen, Redfearn said: “Without a shadow of doubt.
“Looking back to last year when I was at Leeds and I was looking at some of the players at Rotherham, I would have taken some, yes.
“Danny Ward is someone I rate really highly and was someone I wanted to take at Leeds and he is just one example and there’s five or six other examples.
“We have got players of real quality, I have to say. We have players that other clubs would want, simple as that.”
Redfearn is now working with a number of players whose attributes he has respected from afar previously.
But while his card has been previously marked in a positive fashion by selected individuals, he also likes what he sees in terms of the rest of his Millers squad – and has underlined the importance of every player starting with a clean slate under him too.
Redfearn said: “We have got a good balanced squad.
“I have spoken to the players as a group and as individuals. The message that has gone across now is that this is a clean slate and a new start and an opportunity for players to really show what they are capable of.
“There are players who are capable, no two ways about it, and the message has got to be that they have the confidence in the man at the top that they are capable – and then we have got to let them go and prove it.
“We have got players who are really desperate to show that they are capable of going on and being a force at this level and I will give them every opportunity to prove that.
“Players have got to be ready, that’s the thing, and I want everyone thinking they have a chance of playing.”
Harnessing the best of young talent was something that earned Redfearn his stripes at Leeds, with the likes of Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor all blossoming under his tutelage.
For the Millers, their own youthful shining light is Jonson Clarke-Harris, who has flickered impressively, albeit intermittently, during his time at the club.
Redfearn sees undoubted quality in the 21-year-old striker and says he is hoping to unleash his full potential, as he did with several players at Leeds.
He said: “Jonson is one player who is in his early twenties who can potentially play higher, no two ways about it.
“I know there’s people looking at and interested in him. He has got all the assets and everything you need.
“But we need to show him the game as he’s still a young man. We need to impress on him he can get better.”
Redfearn may have only worked with his right-hand man Eric Black for the past four days, but he admits to a meeting of coaching minds between himself and the Scot, with the pair appearing to be cut from the same footballing cloth.
Tellingly, Redfearn’s most successful spell at Leeds arrived in unison with assistant Steve Thompson, with the pair helping to reinvigorate matters on the pitch in terms of results and also yield an upturn in the performances of several individuals.
The vibes between himself and Black are clearly good and just as he and Thompson cajoled players into expressing themselves at Leeds within a positive working environment, so the message is the same down the M1.
On the chemistry between himself and Black, Redfearn added: “I think the players can see that and it has been a big plus for them. They realise we are both singing off the same hymnsheet and he (Black) has got some really good ideas.
“As a football person, I am really open and like to listen to other ideas and need to know that, sometimes, the most important thing is to listen and we have bounced off each other really well.
“We have some ideas to go forward with and both think the same thing; that there is a lot more scope to this side than it has perhaps been given the chance to show.
“Now it is going to get the chance.”