DAVE HOCKADAY was last night given a dramatic stay of execution as Leeds United head coach by president Massimo Cellino.
The 56-year-old had been widely tipped for the exit at Elland Road in the wake of Saturday’s dismal 4-1 defeat at Watford.
Sources at Elland Road had indicated yesterday morning that the axe would fall before the day was over, bringing to an end a reign that had lasted just 66 largely troubled days and five games.
However, in a dramatic about-turn last night, Cellino changed his mind and, instead, decided to back Hockaday.
The Italian’s reasoning was that Hockaday deserved to be judged only when United’s recruitment – which has so far seen a double figure number of new arrivals – was complete.
“At Watford, I decided to sack him,” said the United president. “I said, ‘He’s finished’. I wasn’t happy. I was ashamed of the performance and it (sacking Hockaday) was what I wanted to do.
“But, in my life, I have learned that with your decisions, take 24 hours. Why should I blame the coach?
“The squad isn’t finished and that is my fault. Signings players has been harder than I thought so if I fire anyone, I should fire myself or else I am a coward. I have to control my ego.
“This coach, he might not be a good coach, but sacking him now is not fair. I cannot say if he is good or not.
“When the squad is finished, I will see what he does then. But, for now, you blame me for the results. I blame myself because the fault is mine.”
Hockaday, whose only previous managerial role had been in the Conference with Forest Green Rovers, was a shock appointment by the Championship club on June 19.
Handed a two-year deal, the former Hull City full-back’s arrival at Elland Road went down badly with United supporters who had been expecting any successor to Brian McDermott to have a proven track record of doing well in the Championship.For Cellino, though, Hockaday represented someone who could fit into a new managerial structure that would see him and sporting director Nicola Salerno recruit players and leave the club’s head coach to train the squad.
The Leeds owner, who in his time at the helm of Serie A side Cagliari sacked more than 30 managers in 22 years, made it clear at Hockaday’s unveiling that the new man’s duties would largely be confined to the training ground and dugout.
Since then, United have made 11 signings with the vast majority having come from abroad. Just Liam Cooper, Billy Sharp, Nicky Ajose and Stuart Taylor have been recruited from the English game and only Sharp of that quartet started at Vicarage Road on Saturday. A 12th signing is on the way, too, with agreement almost reached over a £600,000 deal to sign Aarhus midfielder Casper Sloth.
United sit fourth bottom in the Championship with three points from four games. On Wednesday night they travel to neighbours Bradford City for a televised Capital One Cup second round tie. Had Cellino followed through on his thinking on Saturday night, Hockaday’s reign would have been the shortest in terms of games in United’s history.
Brian Clough famously lasted just 44 days at Leeds, but that was six league games. Jock Stein was also manager for 44 days in 1978, when Leeds played 10 league games.