Talks over Dave Hockaday’s surprise appointment as Leeds United head coach were continuing last night after the 56-year-old travelled to Elland Road to meet with Massimo Cellino.
Cellino and Hockaday discussed the job in Leeds yesterday afternoon, with United’s Italian owner seemingly set on naming Hockaday as his first-team boss, but a deal remains unconfirmed with the Championship club less than a week away from the start of pre-season.
Hockaday has been an unexpected but serious contender for the position ever since United parted company with former manager Brian McDermott and he rose to the top of Cellino’s list last week after Reading resisted an approach from Leeds for their long-serving academy boss, Eamonn Dolan.
Cellino appeared to have settled on Dolan as his first choice for the United job but he backed away from the Irishman with Reading holding out for around £500,000 in compensation.
Cellino and Hockaday have spoken directly during the past fortnight and Hockaday was at Elland Road yesterday to negotiate a role which would dwarf any of his previous jobs in professional football.
The suggestion that the former Forest Green Rovers boss might replace McDermott has provoked an angry response from United’s supporters amid concerns about Hockaday’s credentials.
His earliest years in coaching were spent at youth-team level, though he also worked as assistant manager at Watford and first-team coach with Leicester City and MK Dons.
Hockaday’s recent position was as manager of Forest Green, the Conference side who employed him for almost four years. His reign there ended in October when seven defeats from eight games led to his departure by mutual consent.
Former Hull City midfielder Junior Lewis - currently a coach at Hendon - is expected to join the backroom team if Hockaday’s appointment goes ahead.
Whoever succeeds McDermott will have less than seven days to prepare for pre-season with United’s players set to resume training next Thursday.
The club’s Thorp Arch training ground has been dormant throughout the summer - a cost-cutting measure put in place by Cellino - but it is expected to reopen in time for the squad’s return.