Hockaday: Leeds gamble on foreign players will pay off

David Hockaday
David Hockaday
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David Hockaday says he is optimistic that Leeds United’s increasingly continental squad will blend together in time for the start of the season with the club continuing to look to the Italian market for new signings.

United’s head coach admitted that the influx of players from abroad was “a gamble” but said the attitude of United’s foreign recruits was encouraging him to believe that they will integrate quickly in readiness for the club’s first Championship game on August 9.

Hockaday’s squad was strengthened by the arrival of two Italian players - goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and midfielder Tommaso Bianchi - and French forward Souleymane Doukara during the club’s pre-season tour of Italy, and United owner Massimo Cellino is close to securing fresh arrivals from the continent.

Sampdoria right-back Gaetano Berardi flew into England on Thursday to tie up a permanent transfer to Elland Road. The Switzerland international has been at the centre of talks between Leeds and Sampdoria all week and is on the verge of becoming United’s fifth summer signing after training at Thorp Arch yesterday.

Leeds have also made a firm approach for Roma midfielder Federico Viviani, a 22-year-old who won 10 caps with Italy’s Under-21s. A deal with United would most likely see Viviani join them on loan but he has offers from a number of Serie A sides and is still weighing up his options.

Goalkeeper Stuart Taylor is the only domestic recruit signed by United since Cellino bought the club in April and the 58-year-old indicated on Thursday that he was likely to pursue more targets from abroad.

Silvestri, Bianchi and Doukara have been training with the club’s squad at Thorp Arch this week ahead of today’s friendly at Guiseley and asked how he expected the foreign arrivals to gel, Hockaday said: “Time will tell.

“It’s unproven and that’s the excitement and the gamble of football. You can go and get any player - and the higher up they are the less of a gamble they are - but nothing’s ever etched in stone. The chemistry can be right at one club but not at another.

“What we want are honest, hard-working lads with quality and these lads have certainly got that. The main priority is that they’re hungry to play for Leeds United.”

Cellino revealed on Thursday that Leeds have a transfer budget of £15m - a figure which is like to cover wages and other costs, on top of fees paid for players - but Hockaday said the club’s transfer policy was “not about budgets, it’s about hungry players.”

“Thankfully, I’m not going to get involved in (budgets),” Hockaday said. “I’m a coach, I identify positions where I feel we need strengthening, I talk to the president and we come up with names together.

“We then look into it and if it’s two ‘yeses’, we move on it. It’s not about budgets, it’s about hungry players.

“What we’re getting quite a lot is situations where the first thing people want to talk about is money. But we don’t want people who just want to come and earn money. We want people who will come and play well and earn their money. I’m sure that’s what the supporters would want.”

The friendly at Guiseley later (3pm) will be United’s first serious pre-season game after a 16-0 rout of a local amateur side in Italy was followed the cancellation of a scheduled match against Romanian side Viitorul Constanta. Today’s’ visit to Nethermoor is a sell-out.

Hockaday said: “A number of players have laid claim to the shirt and it’s up to them to keep it but we’re still in pre-season so a lot could happen.”