AHEAD of Dave Hockaday’s introduction to the press inside Leeds United’s East Stand yesterday lunch-time, Massimo Cellino was kept waiting.
United’s owner indulged in a spot of idle chit-chat with the assembled journalists in the Legends Lounge before tracksuited Hockaday arrived a few minutes later, with his new boss teasing him with the tongue-in-cheek line: “Come on David, you’re late – I thought you were already gone”.
For Cellino, press conferences at which he announces a new coach appear as carefree as a walk in the park.
During his spell in charge of Serie A outfit Cagliari, he has dispensed with 36 coaches in his 22-year stint, wielding the axe there for the last time on April 7 when Diego Lopez left.
Light-heartedness over, Cellino began the press conference, flanked by Hockaday and his assistant Junior Lewis, the Italian very much in the centre.
It was almost four minutes before Hockaday spoke. This time, Cellino was keeping him waiting.
He may have been in the building a few minutes after the gaffer, but expect Hockaday to be burning the midnight oil in his bid to find a winning formula after being handed a chance to lead United’s first team, a chance that a month ago would have been regarded as totally unbelievable.
Hockaday said as much, his devoted and fastidiousness approach to his new task in hand meaning he will be “getting the candles out”.
This could be a meeting of minds for Cellino has spoken about his 15-hour working days during his time in Leeds.
Hailing from County Durham, whose male folk largely worked in coalmines and shipyards during Britain’s industrial heyday, hard graft clearly comes as second nature to Hockaday, quick to point out that his 20-year playing career featured over 650 games.
His Leeds players can certainly expect plenty of work when they convene for pre-season training next Thursday, judging by the number of occasions that Hockaday mentioned the word. Cellino lacks neither animation or charisma when addressing an audience, whether it be supporters in the nearby Peacock pub or those in Leeds city centre – and that was perfectly obvious from his performance yesterday.
It is something that comes naturally, judging by the number of times Cellino let out an expletive or three and thumped the table with his fist.
If his team show this much passion next season things might, just might, be fine.
Hockaday is shrewd enough to know perfectly well that he will not be judged on soundbites or what he says, but what he does in the shape of results.
This is the one thing that can win over dissenting United supporters, sizeable sections of whom are wholly incredulous at his appointment.
As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail and do not expect Hockaday to fall short on that charge.
Whether that is enough is another thing entirely.
Somewhat fittingly, Hockaday’s first league game in charge of Leeds is at Millwall on August 9. Entering the lion’s den in more ways than one. Before yesterday’s press conference, Cellino mentioned that he had heard that the fixture was a “dangerous” one, alluding to the hostile atmosphere prevalent among the two sets of supporters over many years.
It should carry its own health warning for Hockaday – losing your opening game in charge of Leeds at Millwall is not what the doctor would order.
You suspect everything will now be geared towards that raucous afternoon and grasping a precious opportunity to win over some Leeds cynics in one fell swoop.
And a subsequent victory in front of the Elland Road audience in his first home outing against a side close to his Sedgefield birthplace in Middlesbrough would not go amiss either.
Time will tell for Leeds, Hockaday and Cellino.