Leeds United could decide on a new head coach in the next 24 hours after a weekend of intense activity at Elland Road.
Owner Massimo Cellino has spent the past two days considering candidates for the job and is looking to appoint a replacement for David Hockaday before he travels to the USA this week. The Italian, who is understood to have a clear first-choice in mind, has spoken to former West Bromwich Albion coach Steve Clarke, and yesterday afternoon saw a run of bets on Preston North End boss Simon Grayson returning to a club he managed between 2009 and 2012.
The YEP understands that United have been made aware of Grayson’s interest in the vacancy but Cellino is in touch with other options and is thought to prefer a specific alternative to the 44-year-old.
Grayson, who began his playing career at Leeds, took charge of 169 competitive matches as United’s manager and ended the club’s three-year stay in League One with automatic promotion in 2010.
He has been in charge of Preston since February of last year and took the Lancashire side to the League One play-offs last season.
Clarke, in contrast, is out of work after being sacked as West Brom’s head coach in December.
Contact with him was made within hours of Cellino dismissing Hockaday on Thursday after just 70 days in the job.
Clarke was said to have been receptive to United’s initial approach but sources close to him are indicating he is unlikely to rush into accepting the post at Elland Road.
The former Chelsea and Liverpool assistant is likely to be a leading candidate for the job at Fulham if Fulham decide to end Felix McGath’s troubled reign at Craven Cottage.
Ex-Brighton head coach Oscar Garcia, meanwhile, is being viewed as a viable possibility after he quit his post as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach last week due to the political instability in Israel.
Garcia took Brighton to the Championship play-offs in May but left the Amex Stadium in the wake of Albion’s failure to win promotion amid suggestions that he was unhappy with the budget on offer to him.
He was last night reportedly in talks with United’s Championship rivals Watford, who were hit by the shock resignation of head coach Beppe Sannino.
Hockaday’s sacking left United academy manager Neil Redfearn in control of the first-team squad for Saturday’s clash with Bolton, a game which Leeds won 1-0, but the former Barnsley striker is highly unlikely to be offered the full-time post.
In a message to Leeds’ supporters on Saturday, Cellino admitted to a “mistake” in naming little-known Hockaday as head coach in June but warned that his replacement might not be a “big name”.
“I will select a head coach that I believe can help the club and the supporters must realise that it may not be a ‘big name’,” Cellino said.
“It will be a coach who I believe is best-placed to succeed at Leeds United.
“I may make other mistakes but if I do, I will be big enough to own up to them like I have with David and Junior (Lewis, Hockaday’s assistant).”
Cellino, who lived in Miami before he bought Leeds and moved to Yorkshire this summer, is due to fly to America for a short period after the FIFA transfer window closes at 11pm tonight.