Leeds United: Five things for Hockaday to address

Dave Hockaday.
Dave Hockaday.
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THE start of the Championship season may still be six-and-a-half weeks away, but for Dave Hockaday, the amount of work in his in-tray is considerable and weighty.

The new Leeds United head coach said at his unveiling on Thursday afternoon that his work ethic is insatiable and that he is ready to ‘get the candles out’ and graft hard into the night to make a success of his big chance calling the coaching shots at one of the game’s true big clubs. It is probably just as well.

His determination and appetite for the task in hand was there for all to see and hear in his utterances to the media in the East Stand six days ago; but the real stuff starts tomorrow.

That’s when Hockaday and assistant Junior Lewis will meet up with United’s players for the start of pre-season. As for United’s confirmed schedule of games before the seasonal start at Millwall on August 9, that’s just one of many things that needs to be finalised with an eye on the players being in pristine condition physically and tactically and mentally attuned by the time they step out at the New Den.

Hockaday has scheduled a few days of fitness training, speed agility and technical work at the end of this week, but it promises to be only when the first-team arrive in Italy early next month for a two-week training camp when Leeds players will start to truly get a fuller picture about his coaching style and philosophy.

Fitness and technical sessions will form just part of it for Hockaday, who has described the camp as being a brilliant bonding opportunity to forge links between himself, his coaching team and the players, who will be in ‘getting-to-know-you’ mode in the coming weeks.

But before jetting off to Italy, there’s plenty to attend to for Hockaday, chief among them being to finalise a pre-season calendar of games, which the club were busily working on yesterday.

It’s not often a team’s league fixtures are announced before their close-season programme is finalised, with the wait in the announcement from the club having drawn derision from supporters, unsurprisingly so.

Alongside the fixture logistics, sorting out a clearly defined coaching structure has also been something Hockaday has been devoting his energies to since arriving, having met the club’s exisiting coaching staff yesterday.

Those on deck alongside Hockaday and his assistant Junior Lewis include a consultant responsible for all technical and football operations in Benito Carbone, with Brian McDermott’s assistant-boss Nigel Gibbs and first-team coach Neil Redfearn still at the club, although their futures appear uncertain.

A certain amount of clarity in terms of roles, if nothing else, will be required to provide clear demarcation lines of command, with another task high on Hockaday’s list being to forge a successful working relationship with United’s players.

The former Forest Green manager spoke of respect being a two-way street last week with head coach and players having to earn that vital pre-requisite off each other in the coming days and weeks.

Hockaday has made no bones about the fact that Leeds’ first-team squad will be in for plenty of hard graft to help build a core of fitness to last them throughout the course of a long nine-month season.

Players don’t mind doing the hard yards, but they will only be truly reinvigorated for the start of the season if they are energised by the quality of coaching they receive, with that Hockaday’s preserve and the reason why Massimo Cellino brought him in. Cultivating a consistent style of play and formation, something United struggled with particularly in the second half of last season, will be another major area of pre-season work and is another key area of Hockaday’s remit which he is expected to deliver in and where Cellino will be demanding solutions.

And pretty quick ones too.

Much to do and not much time to perfect it in, but that is the onerous task for Hockaday and his staff in the days and weeks ahead.

Kyle Bartley

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