By Mark Rasdall
For Leeds United fans this has been the most exciting transfer window in history. Fifteen players have joined the club and the emphasis on youth and flair is fantastic.
Matt Smith and Dominic Poleon left the club, and Tom Lees before them. For all his height and threatening physical presence I have always felt underwhelmed by Matt Smith's actual ability in the air - witness the last minute header over the bar against Bradford - and his ability to actually make the difference that people say he brought to the squad and which we will now miss.
With Poleon and Lees I am not convinced they would/will go on to a higher level and are probably somewhere between being good League One players and average Championship players. I have to say that I think Luke Murphy may be in the same boat.
With each of the above, Neil Redfearn will have had a view and that view will have been listened to. For me, he has been the saving grace over the last few years when the usual LUFC madness has prevailed. 'Thank goodness Neil is still there' has been my late-night mantra to my sleeping wife. I believe he has done a fantastic job at the Academy and with the Development Squad and the emergence of Lees, Byram, Poleon, Mowatt, Taylor, Cook and Dawson - to name just some of his charges - in recent years is testament to the outstanding coach that he is.
Neil is a West Riding man and understands what it means to be part of the biggest club in Yorkshire. I think that provides the feet on the ground for others to hit that same ground running. Eddie Gray always understood the importance of youth development and encouraged it in the same way as Neil, being part of the most successful team in our club history whose core was developed and nurtured through that same process.
We are also the biggest one-city club in Europe and I do worry about Neil having to work more closely with Cellino and dealing with a multi-national squad which will move him away from the heartland of coaching young players that he obviously loves - and is the unsung hero of our club for doing - year after year. Cellino has saved us - no doubt at all about that - but I don't know whether he would give even Neil the time he or anyone else will need to mould a team that can make a successful bid for promotion and Premier League competitiveness.
I wholeheartedly approve of Neil having the chance to progress as has been his philosophy with his players and why shouldn't he have the opportunity to do so? I also worry, though, that if things didn't work out we would lose Neil not only as head coach but as any kind of coach and that he would leave the club altogether. That to me would be tragic and a much bigger loss to us than any individual player.
My wife and I celebrated twenty six years of marriage yesterday (and yes, she knew that Leeds United were my first love as much then as now!); our best man read out a letter from the club wishing us a happy future together and the club promptly lost 4.0 at Portsmouth (obviously!). It has been a very happy marriage but, apart from Howard's revolution, a Charity Shield, some memorable European nights and a trip to the old Wembley for that League Cup final, we have lost a generation, largely through financial turmoil.
For some football supporters, the above would have been more than enough, but we have to strive harder and I really want Neil to be part of that - for the long-term. I didn't compromise over my wife or choice of football club - it was love at first sight in both cases. I think Neil is the best man for doing what he does, playing just behind the front man, and the thought of (quite understandably) impatient Leeds United fans turning against him in droves if he didn't get instant success fills me with horror.
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