Leeds United confirm appointment of Hockaday as head coach

Dave Hockaday. PIC: Tony Johnson

Dave Hockaday. PIC: Tony Johnson

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Leeds United have confirmed the appointment of David Hockaday as their new head coach.

The 56-year-old has signed a two-year deal at Elland Road and will be assisted by former Hull City player Junior Lewis.

Lewis was coaching at non-league Hendon but quit that job to join the backroom team at Leeds.

Little-known Hockaday, meanwhile, is back in football for the first time since he left his role as manager at Forest Green Rovers last October.

The former Watford assistant is a surprising and unpredictable choice by United owner Massimo Cellino, who launched his search for a new first-team boss after ending Brian McDermott’s reign on May 30.

Hockaday has coached with a number of prominent sides, including Leicester City and MK Dons, but he is taking full control of a Football League squad for the first time.

The club have made no comment at this stage on the future of coach Nigel Gibbs, who had been assistant to McDermott.

A brief Leeds statement read: “Leeds United are pleased to announce that David Hockaday has been appointed to the position of head coach.

“The 56-year-old has signed a two-year contract and will assume overall responsibility for the coaching staff and first-team playing squad with immediate effect.

“David arrives at Elland Road with a vast amount of coaching experience and was integral to the management team at Watford that gained promotion to the Premier League in 2006.”

The statement added: “Leeds United’s new head coach will be joined by former Leicester City midfielder Junior Lewis.”

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.

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.

Reading’s academy manager Eamonn Dolan is understood to have been at the top of Cellino’s wish-list, but the Italian baulked at the Berkshire club’s reported £500,000 compensation fee.

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.

Former Leeds manager Gary McAllister was the third candidate understood to have held talks with the Italian.

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 did not share in any surprise about his appointment.

When asked, he said: “Is it a surprise? No, it isn’t, because of my background and the fact that I’m a very experienced coach and the president wanted an experienced British coach. I tick all the boxes and intend to take it with both hands.”

It was widely assumed that Hockaday would have little to no input in who Leeds will be signing, but he added: “I have spoken to the president about a number of players. There will be changes.”