DAVID HOCKADAY is the shock candidate who has leapt to the front of the betting to be named as the next Leeds United manager.
The former Forest Green Rovers boss, 56, is emerging as the surprise frontrunner in the odds for the vacant United post following the exit of Brian McDermott late on Friday night.
When contacted on Saturday afternoon, Hockaday declined to comment on being heavily linked with the Elland Road position.
Six leading bookmakers have made him the favourite or joint favourite for the position ahead of the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Benito Carbone and Gianluca Festa.
The north-easterner spent four-and-a-years at the managerial helm at Forest Green from February 2009 to October 2013 before parting company with the west country outfit by mutual consent. He was previously part of the Watford coaching staff under Adie Boothroyd at Vicarage Road between 2005 and 2008.
It represents his only previous managerial experience, although he was linked with the Swindon Town post after the departure of Paolo di Canio in February 2013, a season which saw Rovers narrowly miss out on the Conference Premier play-offs.
As a player, Hockaday was a full-back with Blackpool, Swindon, Hull City and Shrewsbury Town before retiring in the mid-nineties.
The favourite to replace McDermott early on Saturday morning was Carbone, currently in situ at Elland Road after recently arriving in West Yorkshire as a technical consultant.
Comments from owner Massimo Cellino, however, have appeared to cast doubt over the possibility of the former Bradford City and Sheffield Wednesday striker becoming the new United manager.
Speaking late last night, Cellino implied that Carbone, despite recently speaking about his ultimate desire to be a manager one day, will be charge of United’s under-21s next season and have responsibility for that and not the first team.
Cellino said: “I have always said that Carbone will be in charge of the under-21s next season and that doesn’t change now.”
Another name figuring prominently in the betting is former West Ham and Watford manager Zola, out of work since leaving Vicarage Road in mid-December.
The Sardinian was linked with the United post in April, although his agent Fulvio Marrucco rebuffed talk at the time of him potentially replacing McDermott.
Speaking in April, Marrucco said: “Absolutely not. But I think we will see him back on a bench in England soon enough, rather than back in Italy.
“The one thing I can tell you today is that Zola will not be Leeds’ coach for next season.”
Cagliari-born Festa is also strongly in the betting with the former Middlesbrough and Inter Milan defender brought in as an advisor by Cellino in late January while he was in the process of attempting to finalise his move for the club.
Festa, an observer at first-team training at Thorp Arch, had been earmarked for a place in the dug-out before the home game with Ipswich Town on January 28, but in the event, didn’t take his place there.
One other Italian name in the betting is veteran coach Claudio Ranieri, who recently left Monaco having also had previous spells at many leading European clubs such as Roma, Juventus, Inter Milan and Chelsea. Another former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo - linked with Leeds once before - is also beleived to be in the frame.
Other names mentioned in the betting include Neil Redfearn, who has managed the club twice on an interim basis, Tim Sherwood, Chris Hughton and former Whites boss Simon Grayson.
Here are the current odds from Sky Bet. Add your own choices in the comments box below...
Dave Hockaday 6/4
Benito Carbone 7/4
Gianfranco Zola 9/4
Gianluca Festa 8/1
Roberto Di Matteo 12/1
Paolo Di Canio 16/1
Claudio Ranieri 20/1
Nigel Gibbs 20/1
Massimiliano Allegri 20/1
Neil Lennon 20/1
Neil Redfearn 20/1
Tim Sherwood 20/1
Malky MacKay 20/1
Simon Grayson 20/1
David O’Leary 25/1
Chris Hughton 25/1
Alan Curbishley 25/1
Steve Clarke 33/1
Gary Megson 33/1
Mick McCarthy 33/1
Billy Davies 40/1
Paul Ince 40/1
Kenny Jackett 40/1
Gary McAllister 40/1
Steve Lomas 50/1
Gareth Southgate 50/1
Paul Jewell 50/1
Tony Mowbray 50/1
Stuart Pearce 50/1
Paul Dickov 50/1
Sven Goran Eriksson 50/1
Terry Connor 50/1
Phil Brown 50/1
Glenn Hoddle 50/1
Dennis Wise 66/1