Young stars may shine in the Championship
8 August ~ All things considered it’s not been a bad summer for Leeds fans. Yes, the inevitable happened and after not being given the contract extension he deserved the club parted ways with long-serving Neil Redfearn, who refused to swap his seat in the dugout for his old role overseeing youth development at Thorp Arch.
Then there was the pre-season "skirmish" in Austria, which saw the club’s supporters generating headlines that harked back to the bad old days. Who was ultimately responsible for sparking the trouble is unclear, although one Leeds fan’s claim that supporters only invaded the pitch after the final whistle to applaud and shake hands with fans from opposing side Eintracht Frankfurt sounds a bit hard to credit.
These two black marks aside, everything else that’s occurred since the curtain fell on 2014-15 has been incredibly positive. Replacing Redfearn with Uwe Rösler was the first managerial decision made by "manager eater" chairman Massimo Cellino that didn’t cause consternation. Rösler may have had an ultimately disastrous stewardship of Wigan, but the progress made at Brentford suggests he knows what he’s doing. And his plan to play a high pressing game and deploy wingers is the sort of strategy that plays well with the fans who haven’t seen the flanks ably utilised since the departure of Max Gradel in 2011.
Rösler also appears to have bought well. In addition to signing the winger Stuart Dallas from Brentford he also secured Ivorian defender Sol Bamba, who impressed on loan from Palermo at the end of last season. Strikers Chris Wood and Lee Erwin, from Leicester City and Motherwell respectively, should address the shortage of goals that hindered the club’s progress last season.
But the biggest summer bonus for supporters is the much feared exodus of our incredibly gifted crop of youngsters has failed to materialise – so far. Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook, Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor – all under the age of 21 – formed the nucleus of the side that eased the club away from relegation at the end of last season and they’re all expected to secure starting berths in the first 11 at Elland Road today. These youngsters – and the half a dozen or so other talented kids on the verge of the first team, who were nurtured by Redfearn – could form the backbone of a successful period for the club over the next few years. If Cellino stands by his promise to keep hold of them, of course. Simon Creasey