The truth about David Hockaday is that the jury gave its verdict on him long before he even got the head coach’s job at Leeds United.
When the day of his appointment finally came, you could tell that the supporters were mystified by the choice. Our fans aren’t daft and you can’t kid them. They’ve watched loads of football over the years and they have expectations with regards to things like the head coach’s job.
Hockaday didn’t fit the bill in terms of experience or profile and realistically he was always fighting a losing battle at Elland Road. It would have taken sensational form to persuade everyone that he was a hidden gem – and in the circumstances those results weren’t going to come, or not quickly enough to help him out.
I feel a bit sorry for him because 70 days is a short time to be in the job but if I’m honest about his period in charge, I didn’t see a great deal to convince me that he was going to be a huge success.
The biggest concern for me was the tactics and I go back to comments I made after the 2-0 defeat to Brighton last month.
Brighton’s style of play has been telegraphed to the whole world for the past three years. They play the ball out from the back and their attitude is such that there’s massive pressure on the goalkeeper not to punt the ball long. It’s pass, pass, pass and sometimes to their detriment.
On that night we sat back and conceded so much ground and possession. Brighton’s left wing-back was unmarked for most of the first half and they pretty much ran the show. Fair enough we were better in the second half but the damage was already done. It’s the sort of performance that rings alarm bells and waves red flags.
Bradford City caused me real concern, too. That tie was weighted against us by two diabolical tackles from Luke Murphy but I couldn’t understand what was going on in the last six or seven minutes.
Against the run of play, we got a goal through Matt Smith and got our noses in front. You could see from the stands that several of our players were running out of steam after fighting on for so long with 10 players, and the goal was the cue for changes.
If I’d been Hockaday, I’d have thrown on defensive substitutes immediately – partly to slow the game down but also to make Bradford think that they’d be up against it in trying to get an equaliser.
Instead, the team stayed as they were and Bradford scored two goals quickly. The substitutions came far too late.
Murphy’s red card at Valley Parade was also part of another problem. Last month, our discipline was awful. You can argue the toss about which of the sendings-off were fair and which were harsh but four red cards in a few weeks is not a great record.
Murphy’s red card in particular was absolutely ridiculous and it left me with the feeling that the whole project wasn’t holding together.
In Hockaday’s defence, you could argue that the job of head coach at Leeds is a very tough job for anyone. To be more accurate, I think we need the right sort of person to make it work. By that I obviously mean we need a very talented coach but I also think it’s essential that the next man has experience of working in a dressing room with a range of nationalities – and with a group of players who can’t necessarily speak great English.
I remember reading an interview with Alan Pardew where he talked about the large French contingent at Newcastle. There were so many French players, all of them speaking French, that the English lads began to wonder whether they were being spoken about or joked about. It created an uncomfortable atmosphere, perhaps unintentionally.
It takes a certain type of coach to deal with that and there’s no doubt at all that the dressing room at Leeds will require some management. I’m not suggesting we’ve got problems in it or anything like that but there are lots of lads at Leeds who are in England for the first time and need help to find their feet and settle down.
It’s a fairly uncertain time for everyone just now and if Massimo Cellino intends to have a new head coach in place by the time we go to Birmingham City next weekend, that would definitely be a good thing.
Last weekend’s win over Bolton Wanderers got us back on track, ending a pretty difficult month with a decent result.
But it’s still the case that we need to kick on and get this season properly started and I’d like to see us hit the ground running at St Andrews – with a new boss, a new style, new players and a new level of confidence.