Hockaday failed to climb that mountain

28 Aug 2014 10:51 pm, by YorkshireSquare

On Tuesday night after defeat in the League Cup to Bradford City David Hockaday said "we very nearly climbed that mountain." On Wednesday evening it was confirm that it was Hockaday who had failed to climb the mountain when the club announced that his contract had been terminated with immediate effect.

With only six competitive games under his belt he becomes Leeds United’s shortest serving permanent manager in terms of number of games played, one short of Brian Clough and four short of Jock Stein. His assistant Junior Lewis also left the club and Neil Redfearn has been placed in temporary charge until a permanent replacement can be found. Owner Massimo Cellino said;

“I’d like to thank David for his efforts over the last two and a half months but the results since the start of the season have meant we needed to act and make this decision. After the defeat at Bradford I realised that my decision to keep David at the club following the defeat at Watford was wrong and I had to change my mind on the coaches position. As a club we will now begin our search for a new head coach.”

The plain fact is that Hockaday always had a mountain to climb, in terms of his inexperience, in winning the fans over and working with Cellino. He had coaching experience at Championship level but had only ever managed Forest Green Rovers in the Conference, he was vastly under qualified for the job he took on. Do I blame him for taking the job on? Of course not, it was the chance of a lifetime. Anyone in football, both player or coach wants to work at the highest level and this was his chance at a big job. Do I think he was cut out for it? No, but I don’t think the situation he walked into helped.

Cellino had always stated his desire for a coach rather than a manager and he had expressed an interest in appointing a British coach, probably partly due to his inexperience in English football. It is unclear how Hockadays name came to Cellinos attention but it is said people within footballing circles mentioned him. In so many ways Hockaday was the ideal choice for Cellino, an unknown name, someone who he could control to a certain extent and possibly more importantly at the time, he was cheap.

With Cellino and Salerno making the signings though did Hockaday ever stand a chance? It must have been difficult for him. Many of the signings were made after the summer training camps and a large number of players have arrived at short notice with little time for familiarisation. Trying to instil a new system is difficult at the best of times but harder when you have little say on recruitment of players to play in that system.

That said many fans will question Hockadays tactical prowess. The persistence in playing the now infamous midfield ‘diamond’ with the same players week in week out was not popular. We lacked width, failed to close teams down and lacked a cutting edge. The new ‘passing’ style of football was all a bit sideways too and never really looked to get us anywhere. There were some marginal improvements and he was let down by some ill-discipline or moments of madness but this is a results game and at the end of the day he didn’t get the results.

It was hard for the fans to warm to Hockaday as well. He was so confident in his own ability he came across arrogant, arrogant or deluded. He had complete confidence in his own abilities, he told us no one else could get any more out of the players, he was convinced he could get us back into the Champions League and his job was ‘never up for debate’. But he didn’t have the track record to back it up. Leeds fans like a confident manager but not an arrogant one. His recent press conferences had stolen the light from Cellino a bit as well, and I’m sure Massimo will not have liked that either.

Hockaday departing ends a bizarre few months in the history of Leeds United. There are plenty who love Cellino for his passion and for the amount of money he has put into the club but he has showed a naivety for English football. An owner inexperience in the English game and a head coach without experience at this level was a recipe for disaster. Hopefully now we can move on and our season can start properly, but Cellino needs to be brave and he needs to stick his hand in his pocket. What we require is an experienced manager, someone with a proven track record, someone who can move us forward.

That will cost though, and Cellino doesn’t seem keen on paying coaches much. An experienced coach/manager may also stand up to Cellino more, he won’t like that but it’s a risk he needs to take, for the good of Leeds United.