MASSIMO CELLINO has admitted to feeling “ashamed” and “embarrassed” during the alarming start to Leeds United’s season that this week cost Dave Hockaday his job.
The 56-year-old’s tenure at Elland Road came to a swift end on Thursday after just 70 days and six games.
Poor performances allied with hugely disappointing results – the most recent of which saw United knocked out of the Capital One Cup by League One Bradford City – saw Cellino abandon the experiment and begin the search for a new manager.
Steve Clarke, the former West Bromwich Albion chief, is believed to be among those under consideration with the indication from Elland Road being that a British coach – or at least one well versed in the domestic game – would be preferred.
Sources in the West Midlands suggest contact has been made and that Clarke has been receptive, in principle, to United’s approach.
Gianfranco Zola would also fit the bill, but the one-time international is believed to have ruled himself out of the running, while speculation in Italy suggests ex-Catania coach Rolando Maran – unattached after leaving the Serie A club last year – is interested in the vacancy.
Whoever does succeed Hockerday will have a big task on their hands to revive a season that, even at this early stage, seems in danger of unravelling.
Cellino, for his part, is determined to get the right man in place after admitting that Leeds’s performances in their first six games just have not been good enough.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Cellino said: “I am not used to having a team I am ashamed about. And, at this moment, I feel ashamed.
“I don’t like to see my boys in an embarrassing situation. I feel for them.
“At this moment, it kills me. I want to make people happy, the fans happy. Everything else means nothing to me.”
Cellino has been busy this week trying to bring in the new faces he believes will make United competitive in the Championship.
Casper Sloth became Leeds’s 12th signing of the summer when joining from Danish club AGF Aarhus for £600,000, while talks continued yesterday with Brazilian playmaker Adryan and Paraguayan forward Brian Montenegro over season-long loan moves.
With the transfer deadline looming at 11pm on Monday, time is of the essence for Leeds in terms of getting any remaining deals over the line.
In terms of turning the club around, however, Cellino insists that patience will be key.
He said: “If we want to build something that will last for 20 years, we have to work together. We cannot wash out, in two months, years of what has gone wrong.
“I am asking for time, (though) not from the fans. They will give me that time. They love me, and that is killing me more.
“The fans, they are fantastic. They give me so much love. I would prefer it if they p***** me off, as then I wouldn’t feel so much for them.
“I can’t sleep trying to make things right for the fans. I feel the responsibility. It is with me all the time, even in bed.
“The trust the people give me doesn’t allow me to sleep. That is how it is. I have to do my best for those fans and the people of Leeds. I am convincing myself that once the (transfer) window closes on Monday and all the players are here, we have two weeks to get things right.”
Academy chief Neil Redfearn has been placed in interim charge following Hockaday’s dismissal and he will be in the dugout today for the visit of Bolton Wanderers to Elland Road.
As for Hockaday, the only surprise about his departure was perhaps the timing with Cellino having pledged just last Sunday to give the former Forest Green Rovers chief more time to gel together the squad.
However, that resolve weakened during the week and the decision to make a change was made during Thursday.
Cellino said: “We had too much confusion (on the pitch). That has to change. The manager came to me (on Wednesday) and said, ‘We are not training Sunday, not training Monday but will train Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning.
“He was thinking of giving free time to players. I say, ‘Why don’t you think about working?’ We have 15 days after the Bolton game to do that.”
Full interview: Page 3.