don’t get too excited: leeds to play millwall & appoint hockadayBack
Leeds United will begin the 2014/15 season with a game against Millwall at the Den, as if it bloody matters.
The much bigger announcement has not been made yet, but the news that ex-Forest Green Rovers boss Dave Hockaday will be confirmed as Leeds United’s head coach later today has cast a gloomy pall over 2014/15 before it has even begun.
Hockaday’s appointment is expected to be confirmed at a press conference today, and according to Cellino’s pet journalist Simon Austin he is the only candidate Cellino interviewed for the job.
Gary McAllister was spoken to but not about the job; the price of talking to Eamonn Dolan, with Reading asking for around £500k compensation if Cellino liked him enough to appoint him, was judged too high.
That leaves Hockaday, who fulfils Cellino’s promise as “a British coach,” but who promises little else to fans who were hoping for an inspiring and exciting new manager/coach to turn around two seasons of predominantly dire football under Neil Warnock and Brian McDermott.
Hockaday has been out of work since October when he was sacked by Forest Green Rovers after four seasons in which he underachieved with the biggest playing budget in the division.
United will be doubling down on the non-league coaches – Hockaday is expected to be bringing in Junior Lewis to work with him, the journeyman midfielder who is currently coach at Hendon.
The news that Hockaday and Lewis will be the new coaching team has been met with dismay tinged with outrage and coated in disbelief by Leeds fans, but United director Edoardo Cellino – Massimo’s youngest son – suggested on Twitter that fans should trust his father’s judgement:
@Kandol20 cause if you trust my father you trust him now, and not after you see the players coming, and also the new coach, that’s not fair
— Edoardo Cellino (@mfeee7) June 17, 2014
That call to “trust him now” and not when we see the calibre of the coaches and players arriving smacks of a call for blind faith at all costs, and the problem for Massimo – and for Hockaday – is that if you open your eyes even just a crack this instantly looks like a terrible appointment.
Hockaday’s first and last managerial job was at Forest Green Rovers, who finished in the relegation places of the Conference Premier in his first season, but kept their place in the competition due to financial irregularities at Salisbury City. In the next season Rovers stayed up on goal difference, and then finished 10th in each of the next two season, before Hockaday was sacked early in 2013/14 after a run of seven defeats in eight games.
That failure was despite Forest Green Rovers reportedly giving Hockaday the biggest budget in the league, something that is not likely to trouble him at Leeds, although the relative reputations of the players may be a bigger problem, with Hockaday’s inability to handle established players cited as one of his major failings.
Hockday’s reputation with younger players might be the one glimmer of hope; as under 18 coach at Watford he is credited with helping to develop Paul Robinson, Hameur Bouazza, Tommy Smith, Darren Ward, Ashley Young and Alhassan Bangura – also at Watford he worked with Nigel Gibbs, which seems to be the only possible way Cellino heard of him.
From there Hockaday was promoted to first team coach during Watford’s rise to the Premier League under Aidy Boothroyd, but sacked in January 2007 as part of a Boothroyd shake up and amid suggestions – denied by Boothroyd – that the players had protested about the style of play.
After that Hockaday had spells as coach with MK Dons, Leicester, Southampton and Cheltenham, linking up at all but Southampton with Martin Allen, before taking the job at Forest Green Rovers.
FGR fans don’t have fond memories of Hockday’s time in charge, with one offering his ‘Hockaday Out Now!!’ banner for Leeds fans to use.
— Adam Coyle (@AdamLCoyle) June 17, 2014
YouTube also offers a clip of Rovers’ fans reactions at the end of a defeat away to Macclesfield near the end of his reign. It really gets going around three minutes, with one strident voice repeating "WALK AWAY NOW":
That defeat was followed by this interview with the BBC, which provides some hints at Hockaday’s managerial style.
“We’ve been talking with the players, we’ve been talking with the staff,” he said, “and we’re trying to figure out what else we have to do to win a game of football.”
It remains to be seen how long Hockaday will be given to work out how to win a game of football with Leeds United. The 2014/15 season will begin away at Millwall on Saturday August 9th, followed by home games against Middlesbrough on Saturday August 16th and Brighton on Tuesday 19th.
The season will end against Rotherham at home on May 2nd, but the situation at Leeds United could have changed many times over by then. The one thing that is known about Cellino is that no coach or manager can claim job security while working for Cellino, which if Hockaday turns out to be as poor an appointment as feared could be a blessing.
Cellino earned the nickname ‘manager-eater’ in twenty two years at Cagliari, but the flipside of the story of the 36 sackings Cellino carried out is that he appointed all 36. It’s that judgement that Edoardo Cellino is asking we trust blindly by welcoming Dave Hockaday to the club.
Leeds United’s fixture list for 2014/15 can be found here, obviously subject to be being ripped to shreds by Sky TV and West Yorkshire Police – don’t book transport just yet.
Obviously the games away to Bournemouth (Sep 16th), Norwich (Oct 21st), Reading (Feb 10th), Brighton (Feb 24th) and Fulham (Mar 18th) have all been scheduled for midweeks.
Some of the major fixtures are below; as of yet, United’s pre-season plans remain unknown.
Aug 9th: Millwall (a) – first match
Aug 16th: Middlesbrough (h) – first home match
Sep 20th: Huddersfield (h) – RSPCA on standby
Oct 18th: Rotherham (a) – no, not that New York
Oct 21st: Leeds B, Carrow Road
Dec 20th: Nottingham Forest (a)
Dec 26th: Wigan (h)
Dec 28th: Derby (a)
…Merry Christmas. There are no New Year’s Day fixtures this year; next game is:
Jan 10th: Bolton (a)
Apr 14th: Leeds B, Elland Road
Apr 25th: Sheffield Wednesday (a) – last away match
May 2nd: Rotherham (h) – last match
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