Are we being fair on Hockaday?

25 Aug 2014 09:38 am, by YorkshireSquare

The opening day performance against Millwall and the losses to Brighton and Watford have certainly made people question David Hockadays future at the club with rumours that he had already gone circulating on Saturday night.

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?

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scuudz wrote on 27 Aug 2014 05:31 pm

I think most people are being fair. Hock is in a tough spot, no doubt, but unless he is an unintelligent man, he should have expected it to be this hard. I am not questioning the man's work ethic and/or his will to win, but the fact of the matter is that there is a reason not everyone is a top football coach or manager. Like other professional jobs, you have to have a knack for it. I'm sure everyone on this forum would work night and day if we were offered the manager's job, but that is no guarantee of success. Not everyone is cut out for this job. Similarly, Mourinho, Ancelotti, Van Gaal, Wenger et al would be sacked within a week if they were doing my job.

I'm not a football historian, but I think we would be hard-pressed to find an instance in recent times of someone with Hock's background gven charge of a big club in the second tier of English football and doing well. I just listened to his press conference, and he has said things that I agree with such as the job is about more than just hard work. There are more qualities involved, and sadly I don't think Hock possesses those qualities. He sounds like a genuinely nice guy, but you just have to listen to the press conference to realize he is just not tuned in. He says White, Morison and Doukara are out, and then compares that to having the top three players from Liverpool or Man City out and see what happens to those clubs. Personally, I don't think anyone on this forum would consider any of those three players as being in the top three players at our club.

It would be a great story if Hock does well here. I am definitely not within the group of fans that wants us to lose so Hock goes away. I want him to prove me wrong. However, his lack of a good track record means people will give him less time, and I think that is fair. If you haven't done well in the past in a less competitive league, and you've not done well in your first few games in charge here, then it is a fair assessment if people say you are just not good enough. Van Gaal has had a worse start to the season than Hockaday. Hasn't won a game and is already out of the league cup (we might go out today...have to wait and see), but Hock has won a game (albeit luckily) against a good Boro side. However, Van Gaal will get atleast one season to prove himself. I doubt if Hock will get another month if the next game or two don't go our way.

Are the fans being pleasant? No. Are they being patient? No. Are they being fair? Yes.

Fairfield 1966 wrote on 25 Aug 2014 08:30 pm

Cellino believes that the squad is incomplete and it doesnt allow Hockaday the opportunity to make things work.
That's fair enough I suppose but it has been a very risky experiment so far and I'm not convinced another 2/3 games will make that much of a difference. There is no doubt that Cellino is passionate about taking the club forward, but I believe he needs to do a little more study of players and coaches over here and forget about filling the squad out with so many overseas players and, possibly,the next coach.

Snoddy wrote on 25 Aug 2014 07:30 pm


I've supported Leeds home and away for over 40 years and this is all now a joke and frankly embarrassing.

If I remember correctly we got beaten by Millwall (0:2) and Watford (0:3) last year.. and we had a proven Championship "Manager" in Brian last year. What on earth makes anyone think we were going to be a decent side straight away (and last year was also universally hailed as the sh**iest we've been for ages) is beyond me and pretty much goes against anything I've seen in football apart from a few exceptions. Hock may or may not turn out to be the right choice, but I doubt if Mourinho or anyone else could do anything more at this present time.

I think the supporters getting on the backs of the coach or players doesn't help anyone either. Being threatened with the sack from Cellino/Papers/Social Media everyday can't bloody help either. Cellino should get on with the admin side and let the bloke get on with it for at least a respectful passage of time to prove if he can do it. Hockaday's on a hiding to nothing and if I were a decent football manager I wouldn't come anywhere near Leeds at the moment as its a poisonous environment from the "president" to the "supporters". Really disappointed in the way people are going on and believe me I hate loosing more than anyone. The Don would have no bloody chance if he took over with the atmosphere around the club at the moment and he didn't start off that cleverly either... Time for everyone to get behind the coach/club and actually support them rather than constantly bitch.

theleedsmango wrote on 25 Aug 2014 05:58 pm

Gino 1959 wrote:Too fair imo. He is so out of his depth atm and I see/hear nothing to convince me that he can become a strong swimmer.
Precisely. If this was someone of higher caliber there would be a lot more on ripping him to shreds if we still hadn't shown signs of improvements. People are giving Hockaday a wide berth because we know how tough of a step up this job is for him. More blame is being directed at Cellino, although it too is being stifled because he's the first bloke to actually reinvest the money from our big signing into the squad. Those who are being critical of the management aren't against Hockaday, we just see the need that something needs to change and the manager role is looking like the weakest link.

John in Louisiana wrote on 25 Aug 2014 03:16 pm

I'm sure we've all been there at one time or another in our work lives; we're given responsibility but no authority.

It's a very tough place to be, and I feel for Hockaday on that count. It's going to take time to see what he's truly made of, and for those of us who don't know just how much authority he has, it's doubly difficult to assess his performance. How much of this is actually Hockaday's fault? Really only Hockaday and Cellino know.

Let's just hope we're not in League One before we find out.