Yorkshire Evening Post 27/8/14
by Phil Hay
A defiant David Hockaday insisted he had the backing of Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino and the club’s senior players after a bizarre weekend in which he narrowly avoided the sack.
Hockaday claimed he was unaware of any threat to his position, despite Cellino’s publicised plan to dismiss him, and said the subject had not arisen during a two-hour discussion between them on Sunday.
United’s head coach, meanwhile, revealed that four members of the club’s first-team squad had come to him to offer their support in the aftermath Saturday’s defeat to Watford amid clear signs that Hockaday’s job was on the line.
The 56-year-old’s tenure was set to end after only five competitive games in charge on Saturday as a furious Cellino reacted to a 4-1 loss at Vicarage Road by vowing to remove Hockaday from his post. The Italian changed his mind the following day, however, in a remarkable turnaround which saw Cellino publicly blame himself for Leeds’ mediocre start to the season and point the finger at new signing Giuseppe Bellusci for the penalty and red card which condemned United at Watford.
Hockaday will be back on the touchline at Valley Parade tonight for United’s Capital One Cup second-round tie and he refused to discuss his future ahead of the game, saying: “I can’t comment on what people have or haven’t said.
“I had a two-hour conversation – a calm conversation – with the president on Sunday.
“We talked about the game and the defining moment in that game.
“We talked about the players we need, everything. It (his job) wasn’t even addressed.
“The president just told me to keep working hard, that he believes in me and that he needs to get me players.
“That’s brilliant and that’s fair. It’s all I can ask for.
“I’m here, I’m coaching, I love my role and I love my players. I can control the controllable. Anything outside of that is out of my hands and for me to go into conjecture isn’t my thing and isn’t my job. I’m just a hard-working guy who loves his job.
“Four of the senior players have come to see me and said ‘gaffer, we’re 100 per cent behind you, is there anything we can do?
“We love what you’re doing, we love the training, it’s as good as we’ve had.’
“They’ve said complimentary things but all we can do is train harder and win games.”
Hockaday – a surprise appointment when Cellino plucked him from obscurity and named him as head coach in June - has been in charge of Leeds for just 68 days and has handled only five competitive games.
Hockaday said United’s performances had been affected by both the loss of players to injury and suspension and the late arrival of several new signings in the transfer window.
“I’m as good as the players I’ve got and I think I’ve got some really good players,” Hockaday said. “But everyone knows we need to strengthen. We need to score more goals.
“Our goal threat isn’t great enough but we’ve got (Aidan) White, (Steve) Morison and (Souleymane) Doukara out. That doesn’t help. There’s going to be a transitional period but saying that, it sounds like an excuse even to me. We’ve got to get on with it.
“I believe we’re turning a massive ship around. It’s been going in a certain course for eight or 10 years and that isn’t going to change overnight. It’s going to take patience and I know there’s no patience in football but that’s how it is here. It’s not happening as quickly as people would like but I am turning it around.
“Against Middlesbrough, it was sweetness and light. Then we lose to Watford and it’s the other way. That’s football but I’m a good coach, I’ve got a calm head and I believe in myself and my players.”
Leeds will be without the suspended Bellusci tonight after his red card at Watford earned him a one-match suspension. Liam Cooper is in line to replace him in the centre of defence.
Sam Byram is also beginning a three-game ban after Leeds were forced to accept his late and contentious dismissal at Vicarage Road due to a lack of video evidence.
Gaetano Berardi is ready to step in at right-back after completing a ban of his own but new signing Casper Sloth is awaiting international clearance and “high unlikely” to be involved, according to Hockaday.
The drama surrounding Hockaday’s job has overshadowed tonight’s tie at Valley Parade - United’s first visit there for almost 14 years.
But Hockaday said: “It’s a big game. I was always told that this is one of the six major (derbies) in the league. It’s a massive game for both sets of fans.”