HEAD COACH David Hockaday has promised that Leeds United will be a ‘leaner and meaner’ club in 2014-15 – and expects more departures of personnel in the coming weeks.
Hockaday ran the rule over his first-team squad for the first time yesterday on their return to pre-season training at Thorp Arch and has pledged that his squad and backroom staff will be a ‘tight-knit’ group by the time the season begins.
United are confident their transfer embargo will be lifted soon, with their bank accounts now unfrozen and while Hockaday expects some inward transfer activity shortly, he also believes that the retrenchment across all departments at the club will continue.
While Thorp Arch re-opened yesterday after being closed during the off-season to save costs at the behest of United owner Massimo Cellino, the kitchen remained closed, with players bringing in their own packed lunches.
Hockaday, who files out with his first-team squad and staff to a two-week training camp in northern Italy on Monday, said: “The basic thing about everything that is going to happen from the president downwards is that we are going to be leaner and will have to be meaner.
“We are going to have to get rid of all the excess baggage; there’s too much excess baggage at Leeds – in every department. We need to pare things back, get it right back to the bones and start fleshing it out as we want.
“It will be ongoing and from a business point of view, that’s Mr Cellino’s business. It’s just too much, we are haemorrhaging in every department. I am sure there will be people unfortunately going out and that’s life, not just football, on and off the pitch.
“Off the pitch, that’s nothing to do with me. On it, it’s my business to look at my staff and playing staff and I will make decisions accordingly.
“We aren’t going to be taking an entourage out to Italy for our training camp and taking two planes. We will be going in a tight-knit group. My idea is to get my staff really tight and everybody looking after each other’s backs and it will be the same with the team.”
Hockaday and assistant Junior Lewis worked with the first-team yesterday, with Brian McDermott’s former number two Nigel Gibbs not in attendance.
Another not present at Thorp Arch was winger Cameron Stewart, with Leeds understood to be working behind the scenes in an attempt to annul the deal, brokered by former owners GFH, to sign him on a permanent basis when his Hull City contract ends on Monday. Asked whether he is confident that the new signings will be imminent, Hockaday said: “Yes. But until people sign on the dotted line, it doesn’t matter.
“(But) I am very hopeful that we will have a number of players coming with us and fresh faces coming to Italy.”
One man that United will be desperate to be part of the entourage which goes to Italy is prize asset Ross McCormack, subject of intense transfer speculation this summer.
Hockaday admits he is adopting a philosophical stance regarding the future of McCormack, with the decisions regarding the future of players who are the subject of interest effectively being a matter for owner Cellino solely.
Speaking yesterday morning, Hockaday added: “I talked to Ross, he was here today; that’s a good start.
“(But) Anything that happens out of my control, happens. He’s here today, he trains today and if he’s in tomorrow, he will train tomorrow.
“I am not just saying that about Ross, but everybody.
“Will there be changes? With everybody, I am sure that there are going to be changes. We will just have to get on with it.
“Everyone I want to be here to my knowledge is here. I have been in the last four days and met some of the players who have come in and had a bit of head tennis and a feel of the ball and I am breathing it in, getting into the vibe.
“All I want to do is impress upon everybody, not just the players and the staff but everybody out there that we are here to work hard and form a team everybody is going to proud of.
“That’s my job and what we are going to do.”