Massimo Cellino plans to interview a string of coaches this week amid heavy speculation about the identity of Brian McDermott’s successor at Leeds United.
Cellino, the club’s Italian owner, said he would speak to as many as 10 potential replacements after bringing an end to McDermott’s fraught reign as manager. Leeds and McDermott parted company by mutual consent on Friday night, agreeing to go their separate ways after a period in which the relationship between him and Cellino deteriorated badly.
Cellino, who is due to meet with United’s players and remaining coaching staff at Elland Road later today, is unlikely to wait long before confirming the appointment of a new head coach and has quickly established a list of candidates.
The 57-year-old appears to have ruled out the possibility of Benito Carbone, United’s technical advisor, taking up the position, saying Carbone will run the development squad next season – a job currently held by Neil Redfearn.
Gianluca Festa – a friend of Cellino’s who spent time around Leeds in January and early February but has had no visible involvement since – is also being touted as a likely option alongside Gianfranco Zola and Gary Bowyer, the current boss of Blackburn Rovers.
But the weekend saw a strange development with Dave Hockaday, a little-known coach who has worked with Watford, Leicester City and Southampton and recently spent four years as manager of non-league side Forest Green Rovers, rising to the top of the betting markets.
Cellino indicated that Hockaday, 56, was among the people being considered for the post at Elland Road, though he refused to reveal exactly which coaches would be interviewed in the days ahead. “I’m planning a new coach,” Cellino said. “I have 10 coaches to meet this week.”
Hockaday – a former Blackpool, Swindon Town and Hull City player – was contacted by the YEP but declined to comment on his surprising prominence in the betting.
Before staging any interviews, Cellino will face United’s squad this afternoon having taking the unusual step of recalling the club’s players and staff midway through their summer break.
McDermott was set to attend today’s meeting and hold face-to-face talks with Cellino for the first time since April but he stepped down late on Friday evening after agreeing a severance package with the club.
The former Reading boss was in charge for 14 months and 55 games but his job was at risk from the moment Cellino tried and failed to sack him on January 31, a move made before the Italian’s takeover of Leeds went through.
Cellino eventually bought the club on April 7, a few weeks before the end of the 2013-14 season, but he and McDermott had little verbal contact and last spoke to each other more than a month ago.
McDermott’s assistant, Nigel Gibbs, remains in his post and is expected to be at today’s meeting.
Redfearn, the club’s first-team coach and development squad manager, will also be present.
They and United’s squad are likely to seek assurances about the payment of wages for May after last month’s salaries failed to appear on time on Friday.
A winding-up petition served on Leeds by Sport Capital over a loan of £950,000 has frozen the club’s main bank account, temporarily preventing Cellino from paying the playing staff.
A judge in London is due to rule on the petition on June 9 but Cellino is contesting Sport Capital’s claim and said he was confident of having the petition dismissed this week.
He implied that investigations by his legal team into United’s finances and paperwork had uncovered documentation disputing the source and validity of Sport Capital’s loan.
The sum of £950,000 was loaned to Leeds last November and is believed to have come from personal funds belonging to David Haigh, the club’s ex-managing director and a man with close links to Sport Capital.
Haigh is currently under arrest in Dubai, accused of financial irregularities by Gulf Finance House, United’s former owner.