Leeds United’s new head coach Dave Hockaday has vowed to win over the club’s fans following his surprise appointment at Elland Road today.
Hockaday’s only previous managerial experience was at Conference side Forest Green Rovers, who he left by mutual consent after a run of seven defeats in eight matches last October.
But the 56-year-old former Watford coach, who has signed a two-year contract before being unveiled alongside new assistant Junior Lewis at Elland Road, appeared undaunted by the task that lies ahead.
“I wasn’t surprised to get the call because I’d spoken to lots of people and when I met the president (Massimo Cellino) and he talked it was very obvious he knew what he was talking about,” Hockaday said.
“It happened and it seemed right and he offered me the job and I accepted.”
Hockaday, who said the club had players lined up to strengthen the squad and that Ross McCormack would not be sold, added: “I can eulogise as long as I want about a club the size of Leeds, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
“I’ve been given a great opportunity and I’m going to take this opportunity with both hands and one thing nobody can ever accuse me of is a lack of hard work and I believe I’m a good coach.
“The president believes I’m a good coach and people out there who have obviously recommended me believe I’m a good coach and I’m going to prove that.”
Hockaday said the club had yet to decide on a specific coaching structure, but Nigel Gibbs, who worked as former boss Brian McDermott’s assistant, would be part of the team.
Hockaday said he had turned down several job offers since leaving Forest Green and added: “I didn’t just take this because it’s Leeds, I took it because I believe with the president’s help and with the welcome I’ve received here from everybody at Leeds this is the right job for me.”
When asked how daunted he was by the challenge, Hockaday said: “It’s football. I’ve worked in the Premier League and the Championship. I’ve worked in every league.
“We go out and we sweat blood, we’re honest, we’re hard-working, we are hungry and we are honest. That’s what the Leeds fans want - (that goes for) any league you’re in.
“So we will go out there and give everything and more for the cause and people will applaud that and they’ll be happy with that because we’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”
McCormack, the Sky Bet Championship’s leading goalscorer last season, was the subject of a serious offer from West Ham in January and has since been linked with Norwich, Newcastle and Celtic, while Fulham made a reported bid of £5million last week.
Cellino insisted Leeds had no intention of selling their best player and Hockaday said: “We’ve talked about it and obviously I want to keep Ross, but you want to keep your best players and we’ve got some good players, not just Ross.
“I think we’ve also got some players who are going to pleasantly surprise people. Given the way they’re going to be coached, they’re going to be given a greater work ethic and be given a greater responsibility.
“We’ve got some talent here and, yes, we need to add to that. And we will do in the right areas and we’re looking to be very competitive in this division.”
Shockwaves reverberated around the Leeds fanbase when Hockaday became a leading candidate for the job with bookmakers 24 hours after McDermott had left the club by mutual consent on May 30.
The appointment of the former Blackpool and Swindon defender is sure to spark a fresh wave of indignation on social media websites among Leeds supporters who had been hoping for a bigger name to lead the club’s promotion challenge in the Sky Bet Championship next season.
Cellino had made public his determination not to go overseas for a coach, whose remit would stretch no further than preparing the first-team squad, soon after he had completed his takeover.
Hockaday parted company with Forest Green after a run of seven defeats in eight games, while the Gloucestershire club failed to finish higher than 10th in the Blue Square Premier during his four years in charge.
Hockaday had previously worked as coach at Watford, having initially been placed in charge of the under-18s by Graham Taylor in 2000. He was promoted to first-team coach at Vicarage Road in 2005 and worked under former manager Aidy Boothroyd when the club won promotion from the Championship in 2006.
Hockaday was defiant when quizzed whether the players will have been shocked by his appointment.
“Ask them after the first day after they’ve seen me coach,” he said. “That’s what I do and I’m comfortable with that.”
Former Cagliari owner Cellino, who completed his takeover of Leeds on April 7, said he had not seen any of the negative comments.
“I have not seen the internet and the papers,” said the 57-year-old Italian.
“I can be wrong. Coaches are like water melons. You don’t know what you’ve got until you open them up.
“I was looking for someone to improve the players and David will do that.”
Cellino said that he was excited about working with Hockaday and Lewis, a former player with Leicester and Hull and who had worked as coach at non-league Hendon.
“I didn’t buy a player without choosing a coach and with him we will make it easier,” Cellino added.
“It is a team job. He asks what he needs, we know how he will play, we know what we can afford.
“Sometimes I told him to be careful because I like to buy players. I love to help the coach, I want to.
“You can take the best coach in the world, but with no good players, we can do nothing.”
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