Leeds United: My feet still haven’t touched the ground

Dave Hockaday
Dave Hockaday
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It’s been a non-stop four weeks for new United head coach Dave Hockaday who tells Lee Sobot about his first impressions of the club.

PRESIDENT Massimo Cellino’s views on the residency of his Leeds United players have been well documented.

And those views are echoed by head coach David Hockaday for whom a house move to Yorkshire is next on a chock-full agenda.

The 56-year-old is loving life at Leeds almost four weeks into his tenure with Hockaday buzzing at the “fervour” shown by Leeds United’s fans.

Hockaday will have been Whites head coach for four weeks on Thursday – the day United’s players return to training after a two-day break handed to them following the hard graft of a two-week training camp in Santa Cristina in Italy.

Hockaday put his troops through training three times a day – re-iterating his desire for his new team to be the hardest working outfit in the Football League Championship.

And also high up on the head coach’s agenda is a requirement for his squad to live within close proximity of Leeds and that goes for the head coach as well.

Hockaday’s playing career centred around four settled periods at Blackpool, Swindon Town, Hull City and Shrewsbury Town. Throughout all of those spells, Hockaday lived within close proximity to the club that employed him, and it was the same scenario when coaching at Cirencester Town and Watford and manager of Forest Green Rovers in Gloucestershire.

And now a permanent house move to Leeds is on the agenda, that is if United’s head coach can finally find five minutes to get his feet on the ground after a hectic but enjoyable initial rollercoaster ride with Leeds. Hockaday told the YEP: “As a player I always went and settled in within 20 miles of where I played. I just think that’s the right professional thing to do and that will now involve me as a head coach. I’m going to do it and we expect the players to do it.

“My feet haven’t really touched the ground because I came in and it was chaos and then we have been away to Italy. I’m in the process of moving and that’s going to happen over the next week or so. I want to get my feet under the table and be around Leeds as soon as possible.”

The Sedgefield-born manager says he was delighted with United’s training camp inspite of Sunday night’s scheduled opponents failing to show up.

And two factors dawned on Hockaday in Italy – the commitment of his players and the sheer passion of the team’s supporters.

“The place itself is ideal for pre-season training because there’s no distractions,” said United’s head coach.

“You’re in the mountains, there’s a training pitch, there’s a walk down and a walk back up to the hotel and the hotel was superb.

“The food was perfect for what you want – lots of carbs, lots of proteins and lots of vitamins and it was just a perfect base for me to get to know the players and vice versa. The players trained incredibly hard and the maximum they ever have which was good. I’d like to think it’s been a very, very positive two weeks of pre-season.”

Admitting he has already been somewhat staggered by the dedication of Leeds United’s fans, Hockaday beamed: “I’m just continually pleasantly surprised with the fervour of the Leeds fans and how far they will travel to go and watch their team play. Everybody seems to be behind me and the team and it’s basically a case of the last eight years haven’t been great in the club’s history. And they just want to see a team go out and give an honest hard-working performance and they will have that. That’s one thing I will guarantee. I’m looking forward to getting playing against English opposition and I obviously I cannot wait for my first game with Leeds United at Elland Road. That’s going to be special and something that will stay in the memory for a long, long time.”

That outing will present itself on Tuesday, August 12 when United welcome Accrington in the League Cup first round, three days after the Championship opener at Millwall. The head coach’s first home league game will be on Saturday, August 16 when the Whites welcome Middlesbrough. Hockaday believes Leeds United and Massimo Cellino will prove a match made in heaven and a marriage that he plans to be a big part of.

Hockaday revealed: “I met the president a number of times before I was officially introduced as the head coach and I had done my homework on him. I had no doubt that he would sort Leeds out.

“He came in and did what he had to do and he didn’t enjoy making unpopular decisions but if they needed to be done then they needed to be done.

“I’ve no doubt that the club will get stronger and stronger and stronger because he is a very clued up guy and he knows his football business as well as other business. I think it’s going to be a great marriage between the president and Leeds United football club and I think the club is going to get stronger and stronger.”

It’s certainly been a month to remember for Hockaday who must be about the only manager in the world to have won his first game in charge 16-0 against FC Gherdeina.

Hockaday now hopes he can continue to deliver the results to satisfy Cellino but United’s head coach knows he was actually dangerously close to potentially giving United’s owner something of a headache in his first game in charge. Cellino’s superstitious disliking of the number 17 is well documented and Hockaday said: “I’m just glad that we didn’t score another goal!

“We told the referee to blow up early so that we didn’t score any more goals.

“Marco Silvestri also went goal for them and that’s probably why we didn’t get that extra goal because he made a couple of great saves.

“I’m glad that we put him in.”

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