Leeds United Bygones: ‘The Hock’ days were numbered from outset

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Pale of face, football’s ultimate competition winner left the Valley Parade dugout with the look of a man who’s time in the spotlight was over.

Such is the whirlwind nature of modern football, a club who currently has Marcelo Bielsa in the hot seat parted terms with David Hockaday four years ago this week, the day after an embarrassing League Cup defeat at Bradford City.

Former Leeds United head coach, David Hockaday. PIC: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Former Leeds United head coach, David Hockaday. PIC: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Hockaday hinted at a marriage that would see the club return to the Champions League, but for many supporters, his tenure was the footballing equivalent of a one-night stand you’d rather forget, a fleeting union that you’re told, one day, you’ll look back on and laugh about.

Plucked from the obscurity of non-league Forest Green Rovers during a purple patch of Massimo Cellino’s ‘eccentricity’, ‘The Hock’ was a man who was never going to last long at Elland Road.

In fact, his 70-day tenure lasted longer than many believed it would.

Quite how he came to convince the Italian of his credentials remains shrouded in mystery. The most high-profile position he had held was as Aidy Boothroyd’s number two at Watford and the overriding feeling is that he had been appointed for what he wasn’t, rather than what he was.

Former 'Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Former 'Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

What Cellino wanted a was a yes-man who wouldn’t concern himself with club matters in the way that previous incumbent Brian McDermott had. And that he got. Dealt a tricky hand with the club at its most manic, Hockaday was a man out of his depth. That’s not to say he didn’t deliver good times. A white-knuckle League Cup win against Accrington Stanley was the set-up for a genuinely impressive win against Middlesbrough. But two wins from his six matches was all his Leeds side would muster.

Whilst mocking Twitter accounts and sarcastic chants didn’t help the experiment along, Hockaday didn’t help himself. With the world expecting him to fail, he was candid in his optimism and ambition.

One press conference stands out in which, speaking about Cellino, he said: “This guy wants Leeds to be in the Champions League, he does. I believe over time that will happen. I think it’s inevitable.

“The timescale I don’t know, I want to be part of that journey, a big part of that journey. I am going to fight tooth and nail to be here for as long as I can, to be as successful as I can.”

Leeds United's Alex Mowatt in 2013.

Leeds United's Alex Mowatt in 2013.

In another world, such words would have been applauded by Leeds fans. Against the backdrop of hapless defeats against Brighton and Watford, they stank of delusion.

Speaking after that 4-1 defeat at Vicarage Road, Cellino delivered the sort of vote of confidence only he could, by saying: “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?”

So the following game, a League Cup tie at Bradford, arrived with a sense of foreboding.

Leeds hadn’t lost at Valley parade for 80 years, City were on a crest of a Phil Parkinson-inspired wave and Leeds had Dave Hockaday as manager.

Luke Murphy was sent off within half an hour to become the fourth player to be shown red in Hockaday’s six games, but when Matt Smith struck on 82 minutes, it looked to be Leeds’ night.

In another world, the Hockaday experiment might have kicked on from there, but it wasn’t to be.

City struck back with two goals in the ensuing four minutes and Hockaday’s face grew paler.

Cellino didn’t ponder the full 24 hours. The experiment over, fan’s favourite Neil Redfearn took over.

STATS

Bradford City 2

(Knott 84, Hanson 86)

Leeds United 1
(Smith 82)

EFL Cup second round, 
August 27, 2014

Bradford City: Williams, Sheehan, Darby, Meredith, McArdle, Knott (Dolan 90), Kennedy, Liddle, Clarke, Hanson, McLean (McBurnie 70). Subs not used: Yeates, Shariff, Routis, Morais, Urwin.

Leeds United: Taylor, Cooper, Pearce, Warnock, Wootton, Tonge, Murphy, Bianchi, Norris (Poleon 90), Sharp, Smith. Subs not used: Silvestri, Ajose, Taylor, Cook, Benedicic, Antenucci.

Referee: Graham Scott.

Attendance: 18,750.

2013

Alex Mowatt, pictured above, shone on his debut for Leeds United in a 3-1 League Cup win away at Doncaster Rovers. The 18-year-old midfielder impressed Whites manager Brian McDermott, and he would go on to make over 100 appearances for Leeds, notching 13 goals in his time at Elland Road.

2010

Former fan favourite Ross McCormack signed for Leeds on this day in 2010. The Scotsman arrived from Cardiff City, and went on to represent the Whites on more than 150 occasions. The striker netted 58 times for Leeds, before making an £11 million move to Fulham after four years at United.

1966

The Whites beat their fiercest rivals Manchester United 3-1 on this day just months after England won the World Cup. Goals from Paul Reaney, Peter Lorimer and Paul Madeley put the Red Devils to the sword at Elland Road, in front of 45,000 spectators.

1934

Leeds fell to their worst ever defeat on this day in 1934. Stoke City thrashed Dick Ray’s men 8-1 at the Victoria Ground, in Leeds’ second game of the season.