Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino abandoned his doomed experiment with David Hockaday last night, sacking him from his job as head coach after 70 days in charge.
Cellino dismissed Hockaday in the wake of United’s League Cup exit at Bradford City – less than a week after promising to give the 56-year-old a chance to prove himself beyond the end of the transfer window.
The Italian was beginning his search for Hockaday’s replacement today amid strong suggestions that Steve Clarke, the former West Bromwich Albion boss, will be seriously considered for the post.
Ex-Catania coach Rolando Maran – unattached and out of work since leaving the Serie A club last year – is also being linked with the vacancy at Elland Road.
Hockaday had been on the verge of the sack on Saturday night after Leeds’ 4-1 defeat to Watford prompted an angry Cellino to instruct senior officials at United to prepare for his exit
But United’s owner unexpectedly changed his mind and chose to keep Hockaday on after a two-hour discussion between the pair on Sunday afternoon.
Hockaday remained in charge for Wednesday’s League Cup second-round tie at Bradford, a match with Leeds lost 2-1, and he took training at Thorp Arch yesterday morning.
He was dismissed after a face-to-face meeting with Cellino at Elland Road.
Hockaday’s assistant, Junior Lewis, has also left his post, leaving academy manager Neil Redfearn in caretaker charge for tomorrow’s game against Bolton Wanderers.
On Sunday, a reflective Cellino said: “Yes, at Watford I decided to sack him.I said ‘he’s finished.’ I wasn’t happy.
“But in my life I’ve learned that with your decisions, take 24 hours.
“Why should I blame the coach? The squad isn’t finished and that is my fault.
“Signing players has been harder than I thought so if I fire anyone, I should fire myself or else I’m a coward. I have to control my ego.”
But speaking last night, the Italian said: “The results since the start of the season have meant we needed to act and make this decision.
“After the defeat at Bradford I realised that my decision to keep David at the club following the defeat at Watford was wrong and I had to change my mind.”
Hockaday was named as head coach by Leeds on June 19, a surprising choice as replacement for Brian McDermott.
He had been unemployed since leaving Forest Green Rovers last October and held no major profile in the professional game but Cellino defended his choice, saying: “I have good feelings. I follow my instinct and my feelings tell me that this is the right man.”
Leeds, however, claimed three points from their first four games of the league season and lie 21st in the Championship. The defeat at Valley Parade on Wednesday, a game which Cellino watched but left early, was the final straw for the Italian.
Cellino has given no hint as to possible replacement for Hockaday but the YEP understands that Clarke - the former Chelsea and Liverpool assistant - is among several options interesting him.
Clarke had an 18-month spell in charge of West Brom, managing the club in the Premier League, but was sacked in December of last year.
Maran, meanwhile, is also available having left his job at Catania last October. The 51-year-old has managed several teams in Italy, the majority in the lower leagues, and he led Catania to their highest ever Serie A points total during the 2012-13 season.
United captain Jason Pearce tweeted a message of support for Hockaday shortly after his dismissal last night. Hockaday was unavailable for comment.