It wouldn’t be Leeds United without a pre-season full of drama, emotion and controversy, the latter being a word that follows our owner Massimo Cellino around wherever he goes.
On May 20, it was announced that former academy coach Neil Redfearn was no longer needed as first-team manager, and he would be replaced immediately by former Brentford and Wigan boss Uwe Rosler. The German has had mixed fortunes as a manager but gets his teams playing fast, free-flowing football, something we haven’t seen at Elland Road for well over a decade! His challenge of taking Leeds back to the Premier League is undoubtedly the biggest of his managerial career, but he must deliver because the fans and our demanding owner expect promotion.
The 2014/15 season was one to forget for the Whites as we went through three different managers and the season never really got going, ending in 15th. On a positive note, we did see a number of fine academy players come through the system thanks to the great work of Redfearn – Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor, Kalvin Phillips, Lewis Walters and Chris Dawson, to name just a few. It will be intriguing to see how they go this season and how Rosler manages them. It’s also worth noting that despite how average we were in the last campaign, we did do the double over the eventual champions Bournemouth, showing we are capable of beating good sides on our day.
In the end we finished 22 points off the play-off places last term, a gap that is only going to be made up by bringing in quality players. So far we have signed two goalkeepers on free transfers in the form of Charlie Horton and Ross Turnbull. Perhaps more notably, we have brought in strikers Lee Erwin from Motherwell and the biggest of the lot Chris Wood, who arrives from Premier League Leicester for around £3m. Defender Sol Bamba has signed permanently while the club have also drafted in Cardiff midfielder Tom Adeyemi on a season-long loan. As far as departures go, the club have released 10 players, with Rodolph Austin perhaps the most surprising, but his form was poor lately.
Last week, Redfearn said goodbye to the club after six years stating his position had been made “untenable” by the club, and that Adam Pearson’s offer for him to return as academy coach “wasn’t genuine”. This news upset the fans and most likely many of the players who have come through the system at Leeds under his tuition.
Off the field problems have been a major issue at the club for several seasons now, arguably affecting performance on it, and we just have to hope that Cellino leaves Rosler to first-team matters and the club can start to regain some stability. There is no doubting we have a young talented squad and I believe Rosler is a good manager who can help take them to the next level. The signings we have made so far are reasonably good, but we are still crying out for a commanding defender and a pacey winger if we are to challenge this season.
Like many of the fans I was sad to see Redfearn go, but we have to move on now and get behind Uwe and the team ahead of the season. We all know patience isn’t one of Cellino’s strengths, so a good start to the season is vital for Uwe. If the team can hit the ground running from that first whistle against Burnley on August 8, then our young team is only going to get better and more confident as the season progresses. I believe Rosler is a manager who hasn’t reached his full potential yet and this could be his big break. For a club our size we have been away from the top flight for far too long now, it might just take some German efficiency to get us back there.