FORMER ENGLAND coach Peter Taylor is confident Leeds United are in good hands under Dave Hockaday and Junior Lewis – and has firmly backed the coaching duo’s credentials.
Head coach Hockaday and Lewis are putting United’s first-team squad through their paces in an intense pre-season training camp in northern Italy, with their first appearance in the dug-out coming in Thursday’s pre-season friendly with local side FC Gherdeina at the Mulin De Coi in Val Gardena (5.30pm) kick-off.
Taylor has worked with both Hockaday and Lewis, with the United head coach assisting with coaching for a spell when the current Gillingham manager was in charge of Wycombe Wanderers from May 2008 to October 2009.
Assistant coach Lewis worked under Taylor at six clubs as a player – Dover, Gillingham, Leicester, Brighton, Hull and Stevenage – and was part of his back-room staff at Wycombe and Bradford City.
Taylor believes the pair’s diligence and organisational skills will leave United’s players fully prepared for the forthcoming season, with the training camp having featured a number of triple sessions on designated days so far.
On Hockaday, Taylor told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “To be fair, when I was at Wycombe, Dave at the time was out of work and asked to come to see us train, which wasn’t a problem at all.
“I then told Dave to get on his tracksuit and we’ll see how it goes. He’s a good coach; a very good coach.
“He’s very organised and knows what he wants and he’s worked at all levels.
“I know people might say ‘Well his last job was at Forest Green’. But that is also a good level and you have to organise your teams well at that level.
“I haven’t seen him as a manager and don’t know what he is like in the changing rooms. But I have seen him take training sessions and they seem to be enjoyable for the players.
“I would be surprised if that isn’t the way Dave will work at Leeds. I think he will want players to have a smile on their faces and a purpose for doing things.”
Taylor is also backing Lewis to make the most of his “fantastic opportunity” at Leeds, with the pair previously working together in West Yorkshire at Bradford from February 2010 to February 2011 – the eighth club where the pair linked up.
Offering his views on Lewis, his first-team coach at Valley Parade, Taylor added: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for Junior. He’s a very good back-up for the head coach.
“He will be very good for Dave and carry out whatever is requested as he’s a very organised coach.
“He’s a real good thinker about things as well; he did well wherever he has been with me at a fair few places and has always been organised and good on the line as well.
“I hope it all works out well with him regarding all the players and I do think they will all like him.
“Just before I went to England U21s, I was actually at Dover and Junior was playing there - a gangly midfield player. I probably never saw him as a coach in those days, but I then took him to Gillingham and lots of other places and he’s good on the game, intelligent on the game.
“He has got a lot of good ideas. I don’t think he sees himself as a manager and will always see himself as just a good, loyal coach and I think that is what he will be.”
United have announced an additional friendly to their pre-season schedule and will travel to League One outfit Swindon Town on Tuesday, July 29 (kick-off 7.45pm).
The game will see head coach Hockaday return to his former club, currently managed by Mark Cooper, son of Whites great Terry.
United’s development squad U21s were held 0-0 in their first pre-season friendly against Grimsby Borough at the weekend, in a game marred by an ankle injury to young full-back Lewie Coyle.
The game saw teenage striker Robbie McDaid, who joined the club earlier this year from Irish League side Glenavon, make his United debut.
Leeds’ Championship trip to St Andrews to face Birmingham City on Saturday, September 13 will now kick off at 12.15pm - and will be screened live on Sky Sports.