Redfearn: "It's a really exciting time for the club and the Academy"
Written by Dan King
Neil Redfearn believes it's a case of "picking the baton up and carrying it on" after being confirmed as Newcastle United's new Under-23s Head Coach.
The former Leeds United and Rotherham manager takes over from Ben Dawson, who has become the Academy's Head of Coaching as part of a new structure at Little Benton.
Last season, Dawson's youngsters qualified for the Premier League 2 second division play-offs and reached the final of the Premier League Cup, losing to Southampton and Everton respectively, and last month won the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong for a second year in succession.
Meanwhile 21-year-old midfielder Sean Longstaff broke into the first team in the second half of the campaign, making 13 appearances in all competitions and scoring twice before his season was cut short by injury.
So Redfearn, who spent a month with the Magpies last October and will be assisted by Liam Bramley, feels that he's joining Newcastle's Academy at a good time - although he says he will bring some "different ideas" to the role.
"I really enjoyed my time helping Ben and the staff out for that month, and you realise then how big a club it is - and the potential that these young players have got within this football club," 53-year-old Redfearn told nufc.co.uk. "I think it's a really exciting time for the club and the Academy.
"There's some really talented boys in there. I've had vast experience of coaching at Academy level, particularly at Leeds, when we got a lot of young players through, so I'm in a good position to know what's expected for these boys."
The likes of Sam Byram, Charlie Taylor, Alex Mowatt, future England international Lewis Cook and Kalvin Phillips all played for Redfearn at both youth and - when he became the Yorkshire club's manager in 2014 after several spells as caretaker - first team level. Phillips remains a key man at Elland Road while the others have since commanded millions of pounds in transfer fees.
And Redfearn explained: "Sometimes it's down to circumstance that these boys get the opportunity to come in and play, but in my mind it wasn't just that I was from the academy and we were just going to try and put as many as we can in; they were good enough, that was the thing.
"Newcastle have got a proud history of getting young players through. I think the supporters relate to young players and they've got a feel for that. They're in the right place because it's a fantastic club. These young players know the club's identity, they know what to expect, and I think Ben and the staff have done an absolutely fantastic job with them.
"When coaches come in and bring different ideas, sometimes it can freshen it up a little bit. Ben's done a fantastic job; the sessions were always interesting and vibrant, and the players really responded to it, so it's a case of picking the baton up and just carrying it on because there's been some great work done.
"You've always got different ideas so hopefully that'll make a little bit of a difference and put a different slant on it for the players, and obviously the experience that I bring, hopefully that'll help as well.
"The big thing from my point of view - and this is what always worked at Leeds - is it's very much a player-centred approach. It's about finding out about the people as much as the player; what makes them work, what can we do to get the best out of them, what you've got to do to give them the best opportunity to get in and around Newcastle's first team squad.
"And with regard to the type of football that we want to play, the type of football that Ben's had them playing is the type of football that we want to play so it won't be too different to the type of football they've been playing anyway."
Released by Nottingham Forest as a youngster, Redfearn went on to play 790 matches in the Football League, the fifth highest total of all time, and made more than a thousand first team appearances overall in a playing career that spanned 24 years. Perhaps best known for his spell with Barnsley - for who he scored a stunning goal at St. James' Park in a Coca-Cola Cup tie in 1994 - he also played for the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Doncaster Rovers, Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic.
And Redfearn explained: "It's my life experiences and career experiences that I can bring as well, which might just give the players that bit of an edge or give them a different perspective to get themselves in there.
"The good thing about my experience is I've had a long playing career; I've had good experiences and bad experiences - and the bad experiences are nearly as important as the good ones to pass on to players, to know what to expect, to know the pitfalls, to know what to try and avoid to make themselves better, get on and become players.
"I think it covers a broad spectrum and I'm really looking forward to working with the staff and with these great young players that we've got."
"It's about finding out about the people as much as the player; what makes them work, what can we do to get the best out of them, what you've got to do to give them the best opportunity to get in and around Newcastle's first team squad."