Are we being fair on Hockaday?
25 Aug 2014 09:38 am, by YorkshireSquare
There is no doubt that the appointment of David Hockaday as Leeds United head coach was a surprise to most fans, and caused a certain amount of amusement for those looking on from the outside. The speculation was that he was just a patsy for Cellino, a figurehead to oversee the team when the real decisions on signings, team selection and style of play were made behind the scenes by Cellino himself.
Is this an unfair view though? Are we underplaying his experience and credentials for the job? Cellino has always stated that he wanted a coach rather than a manager and that’s what he has. Hockaday does have a lot of experience as a coach in the English game and does seem to have come to Cellinos attention based on recommendations from people within the game. He may never have had such a high profile job before but does that matter? Warnock and McDermott hardly impressed in their spells at Elland Road and they came with a pedigree at this level. So it is unkind to say he is just a puppet for Cellino, perhaps he has more power and say than we give him credit for.
The second point is that it is difficult to instil a new philosophy especially when there have been 11 new arrivals, most of who missed out of pre-season and arrived only days before their first appearance in their team. The players are coming in with mixed levels of fitness, speaking different languages and possibly most importantly lack of exposure to English football. The strike force and defence have been chopped and changed as new players have arrived and as injuries and suspensions have meant other players are unavailable.
It is also difficult to instil that philosophy when you don’t have much say in the players being signed. With Cellino choosing the players he brings in does much of the responsibility for recent result lay with him? Cellino was reportedly very close to sacking Hockaday but changed this mind saying;
"It's too simple to sack him, I am more responsible than him now. I cannot blame him for the results, I have to finish the team."
So, should we be patient, should we give Hockaday time for Cellino to complete the squad? That is a fair argument. How can we expect results when the starting 11 is undecided, when players find themselves lining up alongside a new face every game? I’ve heard names such as Gary McAllistair and David O’Leary banded about as replacements and we would probably give them more time than Hockaday but realistically do they have any relevant recent experience? Would they do any better in the circumstances? It’s Hockadays lack of profile that means we jump on his back so quickly, he has no track record of turning things around at this level so how can we expect him to.
And whilst it would be fair to give him more time based on the circumstances football is a results based business. Three losses and one win in the first four games of the season is not a brilliant return, it is relegation form. He has also made some strange decision in terms of tactics and substitutions. The midfield ‘diamond’ and the chosen personnel have been an issue for debate over recent weeks with Leeds often outfought and overrun in the middle of the pitch. There has also been a distinct lack of width, especially with Ajose having been dropped despite being one of the brighter players this season. There were signs of improvement in the first half on Saturday but his decision to take off Billy Sharp, a proven Championship goal scorer, ahead of Mirco Antenucci, with only 57 minutes experience of English football, confused many.
This Wednesday would not normally be regarded as a big game, the second round of the League Cup may usually be an opportunity to try out different players and new combinations but the fact that it is against Bradford piles on the pressure, it is a must win for the coach. The travelling Leeds fans will not stand losing to the neighbours and will make their feelings very clear should we slump to a defeat at Valley Parade. Cellino has reprieved his coach this time but he may not be so fortunate should results continue going the way they are.
I don’t want him to fail, I really don’t. I’d much rather we were winning games but Hockaday seems a bit naïve to me. We’ve been consistently outplayed in the central are of the pitch where the ball is wont and moves are started from and this has been the most settled part of the team. Hockady said on Saturday "I thought we came here and did a very, very good job and played some decent stuff which I'm very, very happy with." We may have improved slightly but we can’t be ‘happy' with a 4-1 defeat, he needs to start taking some responsibility.
Then again does he have any responsibility? If Cellino is pulling the strings, making the signings does Hockaday have a chance? Would any coach in this situation have a chance?