DAVE HOCKADAY has pledged to win over Leeds United fans and players – and earn their respect – following his unveiling as the club’s new head coach.
The appointment of the former Forest Green Rovers manager, who has signed a two-year deal, has left large sections of the Whites’ support base distinctly underwhelmed.
But the 56-year-old is confident he will prove his worth where it matters – on the training ground and touchline.
The north-easterner, out of football since leaving Forest Green by mutual consent after a run of seven defeats in eight games last October, has vowed to work night and day to turn around Leeds’s fortunes.
While United president Massimo Cellino will co-ordinate the club’s search for new players, Hockaday insists he will have input and liaise closely with the Italian – and that he alone will choose the tactics and pick the team.
The ex-Hull defender, who will be assisted by former Tigers midfielder Junior Lewis, 40 – on Peter Taylor’s coaching staff during his time in charge at Bradford City – said: “I have yet to meet the players and am looking forward to meeting them.
“Nobody gives you respect; if I am a big name or a little name, I have to earn respect.
“So I will earn their respect and they will have to earn mine. It is a mutual thing.
“I came to Leeds as a player and and it was a horrible place to play. I know the Leeds fans want to see hard work, honesty, passion and hunger. That’s my job and that is what we will give them.
“Of course, it is (his biggest coaching position) by far. But it is one that I relish.”
On players possibly being shocked at his appointment, the one-time Watford first-team coach, who will meet the Leeds squad at the start of pre-season next Thursday, added: “Ask them after the first day after they have seen me coach. That is what I do and am comfortable with that.
“My job will be re-educate a lot of the players as it is going to be about hard work.
“My challenge to them is that I do not want to play any team that works harder than us or wants to or needs to win more than us.
“We are going to have the best work and team ethic in the league; that is do-able. That is my first challenge.”
He added: “I will pick the team. All the footballing matters are with me, all the financial stuff is with the president. He has a fabulous record at picking players and getting players to play for him and be loyal to him in Italy.
“We have talked about identifying key areas where we need to improve. We have already had many days and hours talking about that. Between us – and it will be between us – we will bring players in.”
Hockaday is confident former United manager Brian McDermott’s No 2 Nigel Gibbs will remain part of the staff, alongside Neil Redfearn and Benito Carbone, but admits that a definite coaching structure has not yet been determined.
Cellino revealed that he spoke to around 20 people regarding the new head coach role, narrowing his search down to ‘six or seven’ serious candidates before deciding on Hockaday.
While he accepts that Hockaday does not have the profile many fans hankered for, he is equally sure he has made the right call, having been impressed by the way Hockaday spoke about football during a lengthy five-hour meeting last month.
Cellino, who has reaffirmed his desire to purchase Elland Road and revealed that he may look at United re-locating from their Thorp Arch training ground in the future, said: “The best coaches from my point of view come from the low category because there you need really good coaches.
“When you coach at certain levels, you need someone with more public relations, someone who is good for the image, and sometimes the skills and the work that you have to do come second.
“In the last 10 years at Cagliari, the coaches came from league one, league two, (level) from my academy, and I was right.
“Here I was looking for someone who can help our players, who need to be helped.
“We need to work and improve them because they are hungry to learn. Even the players at 32/33, they need to work and learn every day.
“That is what I believe in football. I was looking for a coach with that characteristic and I think that Dave has got it.”
Cellino has clarified the club’s position regarding interest in striker Ross McCormack and says the only way he would sell him is if a ‘big team’ in the top flight came calling.
The Scot has been the subject of interest from several Championship clubs, with Fulham seeing a £5m bid knocked back. Cellino is anxious to keep him, but also wants to be fair to the player.
He added: “If he gets an offer from a big team in the Premier League, then we should give a chance to the guy to go, to face a new level. But the teams who have asked for McCormack are from the Championship.
“So I think that for once I can do something big: I am not selling McCormack.
“He signed a (four-year) contract here and I will engage myself to keep him here. He is a beautiful player.
“We are going to get other players to help him because we cannot have just one good player like McCormack, we need more.”