Cellino appoints Hockaday

19 Jun 2014 12:52pm, by YorkshireSquare

So the day started with Massimo Cellino repaying the loan of £950,000 to Sport Capital. The club will return to court on Monday where it is anticipated that the winding-up petition will be withdrawn and Leeds United can start the process of having their bank account unfrozen. In the meantime it appears that Cellino has found a way round this issue with money reportedly being transferred to pay players wages. The situation has been flipped on its head however as now Sport Capital, amidst allegations involving David Haigh, have had their company assets and shares frozen following a ruling from a Dubai court. Haigh has been in custody for nearly 5 weeks accused of financial regularities by his former employer GFH. He denies the allegations.

The availability of funds has allowed Cellino to announce the inventible appointment of Dave Hockaday as new head coach. The 56 year old Forest Green manager has been given a two year deal. Hockaday left Conference side Forest Green by ‘mutual consent’ in October last year after four years at the club. Hockaday’s reign at Rovers saw them reach the third round of the FA Cup in his first season. They also finished in the relegation zone that year but were reprieved after Salisbury City demotion due to financial irregularities. Hockaday’s second season in charge saw them stay up, but only on goal difference. The next two seasons Rovers finished 10th but with one of the largest transfer and wage budgets in the division and losing seven out of eight games at the start of the 1012-2014 season Hockaday left the club.

Having finished playing League Football in 1995 Hockaday moved into coaching, his first role establishing the first football academy in the country at Cirencester. In 2000 he joined Watford under Graham Taylor as under 18 coach and in 2005 took the role of first team coach as Watford achieved promotion to the Premiership in 2006. He was sacked by Adrian Boothroyd in 2007 and took on a temporary role at MK Dons. He also held a subsequent role at Southampton as youth team coach until 2009.

His new assistant will be former Leicester and Hull City midfielder Junior Lewis. 40 year old Lewis was still playing last season as player-coach at Hendon, a team he previously made 100 appearances for back in the 90’s. He has also had limited coaching experience under Peter Taylor at Wycombe Wanderers as reserve team manager and at Bradford City as a coach.

The appointments of Hockaday and Lewis will be extremely disappointing to most Leeds United fans but they are not out of character for Cellino. He had stated that he wanted to appoint an experienced English coach and Hockaday is certainly that, although not at the level we might have been expecting. The other requirement on Cellino’s list will have been ‘cheap’ and Hockaday certainly seems like the cheapest option out there. Reading’s academy manager Eamonn Dolan had been tipped for the job but Cellino is said to have been surprised how much he would have cost with Reading demanding around £400,000 in compensation. Whoever the new ‘head coach’ it was clear from the moment that Cellino walked through the door he would be the man calling the shots. Hockadays role is very much as a coach and coaching the players. He told the club website;

"It isn't a surprise because of my background and the fact I'm a very experienced coach and obviously 20 years a player, and the fact that the president wants a very experienced British coach, then I seem to tick all the boxes. At the end of the day I've been given a great opportunity and I intend to take it in both hands. Everything that goes on the training pitch, everything that goes on on the football pitch, and that's it, it's a simple as that. That suits me, because I'm a coach, it's my passion and my drive. Everything that goes on in training, all the tactics and the fitness, you're managing players to a degree anyway, and then it's managing the game on a Saturday. For me it makes sense."

So after weeks of procrastination the decision has been taken and announced. I can’t help but feel that we have taken the cheapest option available and appointed someone who will be nothing but a puppet for Cellino. It’s hard to believe that an ex-conference manager will be able to command the respect of the players especially that he will have little say in recruitment and possibly selection. It’s also hard to see us attracting top players to come and work with such an unknown coach. Perhaps this ‘European’ model will work but Hockaday does not have experience as a coach at a high enough level for me and the comments regarding the type of football played when he was at Watford and Forest Green do not fill me with confidence either.

The appointment of Hockaday to me makes any promises about promotion in two years from Cellino go out of the window. This was Cellino’s first appointment and the opportunity to make a statement to the world and to the fans, the statement he has made is pretty lacklustre. I sit here waiting to be proved wrong but I fear I will not be. With Cellino’s track record I’d be surprised if Hockaday was still here at Christmas.

Hockaday will start his reign as Leeds coach away at Millwall in the Championship on Saturday 9th August. The first game he will take charge for at Elland Road will be against Accrington Stanley in the League Cup on Tuesday 12th August followed by the first home League game against Middlesbrough in Saturday 16th August. The first relegated team Leeds will face will be Norwich away at Carrow Road on Tuesday 21st October. The first promoted team will be Brentford away on Saturday 27th September and Rotherham away on Saturday 18th October. Huddersfield visit Elland Road on Saturday 20th September and Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday 4th October. The final game of the season will be against Rotherham at Elland Road on Saturday 2nd May.

For full fixtures visit the BBC Sport website.