Hockaday will bank on foreign legion at United

Leeds United head coach David Hockaday (Picture: Tony Johnson).
Leeds United head coach David Hockaday (Picture: Tony Johnson).
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WITH three signings from Europe already through the door and Massimo Cellino hinting that the six remaining targets are also likely to come from foreign shores, Leeds United are clearly going to have a continental look once the season gets under way next month.

So much so, in fact, that come the opening day at Millwall, any players in the starting XI born within these shores are likely to be in the minority – especially with Cellino seeing little value in talent honed in the Football or Premier Leagues.

It is a major turnaround from last season, when only Rodolph Austin flew the flag at Elland Road on a regular basis for footballers born outside Britain.

Patience may well be required, as a host of players – Sampdoria right-back Gaetano Berardi, a Swiss international, set to be the latest to join the Cellino revolution – take time to settle amid the cut and thrust of the Championship.

For Dave Hockaday, the man entrusted with the role of head coach in the new set-up at Leeds, gelling together a squad that is undergoing not so much a makeover as a facelift this summer is going to be the priority.

“Time will tell,” stated the 56-year-old former defender to The Yorkshire Post when asked how quickly fans can expect to see his new-look team firing in the new season.

“That is 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 is ever etched in stone.

“The chemistry can be right at one club but not at another. What I will say is we want honest, hard-working lads with quality and they (the new signings) have certainly got that.”

Watford were the most recent club to embark on a path similar to that being trodden by Leeds this summer.

Following a 2012 takeover by the Pozzo family, who also own Serie A club Udinese, the Hornets’ first-team was suddenly filled with new faces from Italy.

Initially, Watford struggled and were fifth bottom of the Championship seven games into the 2012-13 season. Then, though, Gianfranco Zola’s squad suddenly clicked and went on to reach the play-off final the following May.

Cellino and Hockaday must be hoping United can enjoy a similar upturn in fortunes after three years of the club treading water in finishing 13th, 14th and 15th in the second tier.

Further strengthening of the squad will, of course, be needed with Leeds’s recruitment so far amounting to goalkeepers Marco Silvestri and Stuart Taylor, midfielder Tommaso Bianchi and forward Souleymane Doukara.

Taylor is the only English addition in that quartet, leaving Cellino and Nicola Salerno, effectively the club’s sporting director, with plenty to do when it comes to bringing in the half-a-dozen signings that the United president is targeting.

“We are aware of where we need to strengthen and I don’t think that’s rocket science,” said Hockaday when asked about possible new faces. “We are working hard to improve those areas.

“If someone is good enough, whatever the age, then we are interested. But the main priority is that they are hungry to play for Leeds United.

“What we are getting is people who the first thing they want to talk about is money. We don’t want people who just want to come and earn money.

“We want people who will come and play well, earn their money and if they do earn it they will get it. We just want people who want to work hard for Leeds United. I am sure that’s what the supporters want.

“Every day I am talking to the president. Again, we are not going to be rushed or do anything silly. We want the right people, for the right reasons, at the right time.

“If we can get it done in a day, we will. But if it takes a month, it takes a month.”

Hockaday’s United will get their first outing on home soil today when they travel to Conference North neighbours, Guiseley.

Fresh from two weeks in Italy – where Leeds beat one amateur team 16-0 but then suffered the frustration of another Romanian side failing to turn up as scheduled for a friendly – Hockaday believes his players are in good shape.

“It was a great two weeks’ training,” he said.

“With all the turmoil that had been going on at the club, it was ideal timing for us to take the players away and get to know each other.

“I have now got a handle on the players, they have got a handle on me and that is what I want.

“They have a great work ethic, they are an honest bunch, and there is a good team spirit, which apparently surprised everyone.

“This is a good set of lads. Silvestri and Bianchi speak decent English. They have got into the group really well.

“Doukara came into the group a little bit later so we are still getting to know him, while Stuart Taylor is just a good professional and great to have around the squad.”