Tag Archives: Dave Hockaday

Leeds in Crisis: Darko’s Failure is the Failure of Owner and Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Darko: hello, goodbye

Darko: hello, goodbye

A lot of Leeds fans will have woken up very happy this Sunday morning, following the shock sacking of Darko Milanic after defeat by Wolves yesterday. Perhaps they’re right to be; perhaps Neil Redfearn is indeed the Messiah and will in due course restore us to the promised land, serving up sumptuous feasts contrived of paltry loaves and fishes along the way, all washed down with copious draughts of wine produced supernaturally from water. It’s to be hoped so, for it appears that only a miracle or two will extend any Leeds United Head Coach’s tenure beyond an initial settling-in period.

Those happy Leeds fans who believe in and are confidently awaiting this miracle, though, should perhaps give their heads a shake. They should ask themselves about the wisdom of the owner in overseeing the dismissal of three hot-seat occupants in a season barely over a quarter of the way through. They should wonder about the ability of the club to attract high calibre candidates in the future, should this season’s second coming of Redders not prove to be that of a Saviour. In short, they should ask of themselves: “Is this really what we wanted?”

This blog is and has been a firm supporter of Massimo Cellino and all of his works behind the scenes at LS11 since he assumed control of Leeds United just a few months ago. Articles have been written praising his single-handed turning around of a moribund hulk, and the input he has had into the recruitment of several extremely promising signings, the potential of which we have all seen. But this blog begs leave to doubt whether Massimo’s genius extends to the recruitment and retention of a high-end coach – the kind of guy who is going to define the direction of the team and squad; the sort of achiever who can take a serial under-performer like Leeds and drag it back into the big-time.

Cellino is the man who makes the decisions; what he needs above all is the ability to back his own judgement, He needs to display some cool and some sang-froid – the propensity to avoid panic when the first signs emerge of the current plan going tits-up. It is this faith in his own judgement, this ability to control panic and suppress knee-jerk reactions, which currently appear to be missing from the Massimo make-up. That does not bode well. How many more times this season are we going to hear “I made a mistake with this guy – sorry, my friends…” – and how many more times are the fans going to sanction such boom and bust recruitment tactics?

The fans – a vociferous if not particularly large proportion of them, anyway – have to take their share of the blame for this latest farcical development. It has been alarming to see how so many of those fans, especially those highly active on social media, appear to have bought into the serial hire and fire policy that has appeared to characterise Cellino’s ownership of Cagliari and now Leeds. In many ways, Darko Milanic was onto a loser right from the start of his engagement, simply because so many supporters wanted Redfearn to get the gig, after his brief but productive interregnum. When Redfearn was overlooked, or unwilling (depending upon which version of events you believe) – the Redders supporters were disappointed and thus not disposed to give Darko much of a chance. That might be understandable – but to call (as they did) for the head of a new Head Coach a mere two or three games into the job, especially after the previous “permanent” appointment bit the dust only a few games into the season, surely smacks of the most arrant folly.

Even more worrying is the alarming possibility that Cellino is making the mistake of listening too hard to the fans in areas where the head should rule the heart. If the Italian is capable of being swayed by what might be called mob rule, then we stand a real risk of the lunatics taking over the asylum. What we can’t afford at any price is for the fans uncritically to take on board the excesses of Cellino, or for Cellino to be unduly influenced by the more extreme and hard-of-thinking section of the fans.

Redfearn cannot be exempt from criticism in this sorry mess either. To say he was coy over his wishes for the top job on a permanent basis is somewhat to understate the case. He waxed lyrical about his love for the development role, but then – when he didn’t get the head coach job – a faint tinge of sulkiness seemed to descend upon him; he was unwilling to be involved with the first team and, as far as I can see, he is open to a charge of failing to support and assist the new man. Now, it appears he will get his chance to be top dog under the Presidential shadow. Woe betide him if he fails to take it, and Leeds United must stand in very real peril of losing altogether a man in Neil Redfearn whose influence at the club has been one of the fairly few positive themes in the past year or so.

Sacking a head coach is a very serious step indeed, and we’ve now seen three such decisions taken since the last ball of last season was kicked – and still two months to go till Christmas. Who will be in charge then? Can any of us hazard a fair guess? We must hope it will be Redfearn, but who could say with any certainty – and what is being said out there in football land about the attractiveness or otherwise of the Leeds United post?

The dismissal of your manager is not guaranteed to pay dividends anyway. Yesterday at Leeds, the football in the first half was extremely easy on the eye, and United dominated a decent Wolves outfit. Then it all went wrong, and the next thing we knew Darko had his cards. Meanwhile, in Birmingham, the City team that had seen their manager sacked in midweek surrendered abjectly at home to Bournemouth, losing 0-8. The upheaval of one managerial sacking was clearly enough to absolutely destroy that team. How will the Leeds squad react to their fourth change at the helm, and only fourteen games gone?

Let’s not run away with the idea that Leeds United’s current plight is simply down to Darko Milanic, or even a shared responsibility between that gentleman and the hapless Dave Hockaday. The problem runs deeper and the blame must be ascribed on a much wider basis. Owner, staff and fans must hold up their hands and admit failure in their distinct and vital roles. The owner needs to hold his nerve now, have faith in his (latest) chosen man and refuse to succumb to panic and outside pressures other than in the most dire circumstances.

Given continuity and some steadiness about the place, the squad is easily good enough to hold its own in this division, and that’s what it’s all about for the current season. Consolidate and build as positively as possible for a real challenge next time around. The fans, collectively, have to refrain from carping at every little setback and making childish demands for heads to roll. Supporters should support – a significant proportion of Leeds United’s fanbase, especially online, appear to be completely unaware of that.

Disappointed after the home defeat to Wolves, I only learned of the sacking of Milanic when I received a text from a Radio Aire reporter asking me for a reaction. Gobsmacked, stunned – and above all worried – aptly summed it up. I’m extremely worried about the immediate and longer-term future and I’m pessimistic about the prospects of any coherent plan being given the time and opportunity to develop. How could I be otherwise, given the events of this season so far?

Change can be good, it can be bad, it can be disastrous. It should not be embraced for its own sake, neither should it be brought about too frequently, at the first sign of trouble. Some calmness is needed now – and a bit of faith in the people who are being left to pick up the pieces of a fragmented season so far.

I remain a Cellino fan and this blog will continue to support him in his ongoing fight to get on with the job of reviving Leeds United in the face of  petulant opposition from the buffoons of the Football League. I’m actually a fan of Neil Redfearn too, though I feel he hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory during the brief reign of Darko Milanic. An examination of Neil’s four games in charge this season will reveal that he got a bit lucky on a  couple of occasions; we should have been buried alive by half time at Bournemouth and a couple of other displays lacked inspiration. If he can consistently hit the heights we attained against Huddersfield, then we’ll be cooking with gas. But there has to be some doubt that things will go that well.

Thanks to the strictures of the transfer window, the one thing that will remain a constant until the new year at least is the make-up of the squad. And I believe that there is enough quality at Elland Road for a formidable team to emerge out of the ingredients we currently have to play with. If that happens, and if the club is much more comfortably placed after Christmas, then Neil Redfearn will deservedly take plenty of credit for that. I hope it is the case – and I hope that there is less of an opportunity by then for a hostile press to pick away at the club as they inevitably will after this latest debacle. The likes of Robbie Savage and Phil Neville at the chimp end of the scale, together with Jeff Stelling, Gary Lineker and others further up towards the intellectual end, will all be queuing up to say “I told you so” in the next few days and weeks. The sad thing is, we’ve played right into their hands – and I do mean all of us.

Some people have managed completely to forget about the meaning of that “Marching on together” theme song we’re so justly proud of. Cellino, the maverick,  can be excused for not having the club’s culture ingrained in him to that extent. The fans can have no such excuse – and it is down to us now to support the club through thick and thin – and to support the team and the management, instead of hollering for change at the first sign of an ill wind. The team and the fans represent the most likely influences for calm steadiness and some much-needed continuity as we try to go forward. Let’s all remember what “support” means – and let’s get on with delivering it.

It’s a League Cup Tale of Two Uniteds as Minnows Progress – by Rob Atkinson

Matt Smith - scored for Leeds to momentarily cause despair among the Gobshite Tendency

Matt Smith – scored for Leeds to momentarily cause despair among the Gobshite Tendency

To be more accurate, it was a tale of two alleged Uniteds – plus one City and what might politely be termed a franchise as Milton Keynes Dons and Bradford City saw off the ‘disuniteds’ of Manchester and Leeds respectively. On the face of it, the similarities in the two cases are striking.  The Pride of Devon were condemned by English football’s only even more plastic club to a pre-Christmas period of plain and simple League fare, unrelieved by any spicy Cup-tie delicacies. They must concentrate on recovering, under new management, from a wobbly start to that bread-and-butter marathon, and forget all about knock-out glamour until it’s time to get knocked out of the FA Cup.

Leeds have likewise been dragged down to the level of that other United from ovver t’hills. They, too, will be stuck with repairing a dodgy league position until the new year rolls around. They, too, are in transition, rebuilding under a new regime. But there the similarities end – in terms of the manner in which the two Uniteds departed this season’s League Cup competition, anyway. Leeds, for the umpteenth time this season, were reduced to ten men, due on this occasion to foolhardy rashness on the part of Luke Murphy, who gave the ref every opportunity to brandish a second yellow. Murphy let down his team-mates, his coach and indeed his club, all of whom were relying on a united performance. The remaining ten stalwarts delivered though, and in the end Leeds were somewhat unfortunate to lose, as was pointed out by coach Hockaday afterwards – to depressingly predictable storms of social media abuse – about which more anon.

Man U, for their part, had no dismissals to cope with. They were simply out-played, out-fought, out-thought, thrashed out of sight by a team nominally two leagues inferior. Their much-vaunted manager, the former World Cup coach of the Netherlands, left out some supposed big-hitters, despite the lack of European distractions. Man U contributed in full measure to their own downfall, but the wretched MK Dons, a club whose origins leave the nastiest of nasty tastes in the mouth, nevertheless thoroughly deserved their crushing victory.

So the two Uniteds are no more, in this Cup competition at least. Life and the League Cup will go on without them, though there will be a few regrets on all sides about a third round draw that could have been a Roses clash at the Theatre of Hollow Myths, or which could have seen either minnow land a big fish instead of nibbling away at each other. Such is Cup football.

What remains to be said, other than that, in summary, Leeds were slightly unlucky and Man U got exactly what they deserved? Well, quite a bit, actually.

I’ve been rather quiet this season so far, due to some family health problems and various other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, all of which – I’m glad to say – are being properly addressed. But I’ve still been keeping an eye on things, shaking my head gloomily at times, brightening up at bits of exciting transfer news at other times – and tut-tutting away as a middle-aged fan who remembers better times is wont to do. It’s been quite a good and exciting season, really – except for those pesky occasions when some fool has blown a whistle and we’ve actually tried to play a game of football. Big mistake, that. But the over-riding impression of this season so far, for me anyway, has been the clatter and clash of bandwagons being jumped on, over and over again, by far too many people who really should know a lot better.

The people I’m talking about, for the most part, manifest themselves in social media – Twitter being a particular offender in this respect. Some alleged Leeds United fans out there need to take a long, hard look at themselves after some of the unprecedented abuse being heaped on the head of a man in Dave Hockaday who is totally unable to defend himself and has managed to weather an ongoing storm with what can only be described as impeccable dignity. Hockaday has copped for the lot, from school playground stuff like the oh-so-clever plays on his name (Whackaday, Hockalot, Shockaday – and all the other dismally unfunny variants), to far more serious abuse from the kind of people who feel free to say what they like from what they gleefully feel to be safely unaccountable positions. I’ve seen fans freely expressing a hope that we would lose at Bradford, so that Hockaday might be sacked. Some of the bile and spleen vented has been utterly disgusting and degrading; some has been frankly laughable. The other day, there was a veritable Twitter-storm because Hockaday mentioned that Leeds would “inevitably” be back in the Champions League some day. He expressed a desire to be involved in that. And the world and his scabby dog seemed to join in an unseemly scramble to pour contempt on those innocent and sincere words.

Now, just imagine. What if Hockaday had faced the interviewer’s mike and had said “There’s not an earthly of Leeds ever getting into Europe again, not unless there’s a war. As for the Champions League – don’t make me laugh. And if they did, well – I wouldn’t want any part of it. Stuff that for a game of soldiers!” Would he have been applauded for his disarming frankness? Would the various social media have been abuzz with praise for his words of wisdom? No, of course they bloody wouldn’t. The fans would be outraged at such defeatist nonsense, and quite right too. So why go for the guy’s jugular when he expresses the naked ambition and belief in a brighter future that should be burning hot in any true fan’s heart? It makes no sense, and it reflects even less credit on those who, mindlessly sheep-like, follow the masses onto that overloaded bandwagon. For heaven’s sake, it’s nothing less than pathetic. And it grieves me to say this – but after what’s been said and written lately, I’m thoroughly ashamed of many, many Leeds fans right now.

It’s already been the same in the wake of the Bradford defeat. A few saner souls have pointed out that Murphy was an idiot getting himself sent off, that we battled well for an hour when a man down, took the lead and were only undone by a worldie and then a crap header that zipped through our keeper’s legs. AND we should have had a penalty when Poleon was taken out by the keeper – no, don’t listen to Don Goodman, he’s rabidly anti-Leeds and spouts nonsense. So, a few have broken the ranks of the silent majority – and they’ve highlighted the positives of the Bradford match. But many, many more of that knee-jerk faction of jerks have simply resorted to more abuse, more insults, more demands for the sacking of a guy who’s been there five minutes, and has spent that short time coping with the least helpful circumstances imaginable. That’s disgusting, ridiculous and completely unforgivable.

I’m old enough to remember demonstrations in the West Stand car-park when the fans had had enough and wanted Adamson Out, or on another occasion, Eddie Gray Back. I’ve seen little if any of that this time around. It’s mainly those big, brave Twitter types, sniping away from the safe anonymity of their keyboards, pouring their brainless vitriol onto the head of a man who probably will be gone soon, and who should, anyway, probably walk of his own accord – because he’s up against more than the opposition in the other dressing room every day of his working life. I’ll not comment on whether he’s a good enough coach – there hasn’t been the time or the proper circumstances in force to make a reliable judgement on that. But the players seem to like him – and aren’t they the best ones to ask, normally?

Back to the Bradford game. Once Luke “Stupid Boy” Murphy signed his own dismissal warrant, there were three possible objectives for Leeds United. In ascending order of importance, least important first: get to the next round of the Cup. OK, we didn’t make it, so what. We weren’t far off, in the end. Secondly; secure local bragging rights. I’d argue we managed that, making a good fist of a rearguard action against a spirited and motivated Bradford, and taking the lead against those formidable odds. Relative to the Man U debacle, we’ve no need to be ashamed of the effort and commitment of our ten warriors at Bradford. But the most important objective was to use an adverse situation to kick-start the bonding and gelling of this new group, under a new coach. The hour of battle against superior numbers in a hostile atmosphere will have gone a long way towards getting that process under way – and that really IS important, with the vast bulk of this nascent season still ahead of us.

In truth, I’m sick of the current situation, sick of the poisonous atmosphere in that odd virtual world, which is so much less apparent in the more old-fashioned world where fans still go to the match and get behind the shirts – I’m sick to death of so many of Leeds United’s yappier, dafter and more deluded fans – a vociferous but less than cerebral group I can only describe, rather impolitely, as the Gobshite Tendency. It’s a toxic mix, for anyone who loves the club, and I really am less than happy with it right now – so I shall return for the time being to looking after my family and parents as they struggle with real problems, far more intimidating than the daft footballing ones which seem to provoke such nastiness in some people. I’ve had enough, for the moment. So, as on a few occasions before, I shall take refuge in the past. I’ll write some nostalgia pieces, starting with one I promised a while back to my good mate Andy Gregory, of the excellent “We All Love Leeds” blog. We beat Southampton 7-0 in that one – but if Twitter had been around then, I’m sure there’d have been some eejits moaning that it should have been eight or nine and calling for the Don to be sacked. Just now, it really is that daft and annoying.

So – see you back in the Seventies, maybe. 

Dave Hockaday is Our Man, Let’s Give Him 100% Backing – by Rob Atkinson

It's the Massimo & Dave show

It’s the Massimo & Dave show

“We go out and we sweat blood, we’re hard-working, we are hungry and we are honest. That’s what the Leeds fans want – that goes for any league you’re in.

“So we will go out there and give everything and more for the cause and people will applaud that and they’ll be happy with that because we’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”

Dave Hockaday

At last, a giant stride forward towards preparing for the new season at Elland Road. Leeds United have a new management structure and the pivotal role of Head Coach within that structure will be filled by the experienced Dave Hockaday. That is official. Now, let’s get right behind Dave and do our job of supporting Leeds United.

It’s far too easy to sit back and carp, criticise and generally whinge about the fact that our new Head Coach is not the biggest name in football. This blog will not choose that lazy option, I will not be climbing aboard any convenient bandwagons. Mr. Hockaday has the job; he will now have to set about proving that he can do it. His first interview showed the necessary appetite and determination; he spoke of wanting to see the desire for success in players’ eyes. Now that’s a sentiment that should strike a chord with Leeds fans – as a crowd, we’ve always prized guts, desire, effort. Whether Dave Hockaday can instil these qualities in his troops is for him to demonstrate; in the meantime, the very least he deserves is the respect of us all for stepping up to the plate – and also our full support as he gets stuck into his remit.

The internet is abuzz with why-oh-why merchants each peddling their own brand of negativity or look-how-cool-I-am cynicism. What, precisely, will any of that gain for Leeds United? Even if they turn out to be right, all it gets for them is a chance to say I told you so. (And if they’re wrong, they’ll just subside into silence). We simply don’t know yet how this will turn out. But there are several good reasons why we shouldn’t slavishly join in this premature brandishing of egos. And those are equally adequate reasons why the people currently indulging themselves in an orgy of pessimism (and thoroughly enjoying it from the sound of it) might just be utterly wrong.

Consider; where did Jose Mourinho spring from into his sudden sunburst of glory and fame? He was Bobby Robson’s interpreter; not exactly a ready-made and world-class candidate for the title of “Special One”. Who did Leeds United turn to in March 1961, after the likes of Raich Carter and Frank Buckley had failed to lift the club above humdrum mediocrity? A veteran player on their own books, that’s who – a man on the point of applying to Bournemouth for his first managerial job. Bloke by the name of Don Revie. I’ll bet there were gloom and doom merchants then, shaking their heads and calling on the board to look elsewhere, look to proven experience. Good job they stuck to their guns then – isn’t it?

People say that Hockaday has failed at non-league level. Those same people might be aware that he did OK at Watford, especially in a certain play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in 2006, when the Hornets stung the Peacocks 3-0. But they ignore that, and emphasise the downside, his record at Forest Green. I’ve just been reading Harry Redknapp’s book – he did some time in non-league – and didn’t pull up too many trees. He was at Bournemouth when they fell out of the second tier in 1990 as well. But he’s done alright apart from that, ‘Arry – hasn’t he?

We just don’t know how the Hockaday appointment will pan out. What we do know is that he’d better succeed, or – according to the Cellino script – he’ll be out of the door. Cellino’s track record is a matter of public notoriety, but Hockaday is evidently up for the challenge; he has his player targets which he’s already discussed with il Duce – and he wants to hang on to McCormack. He looks clear-eyed and realistic to me, and he deserves the chance he’s been given; moreover, he deserves the backing and support to take that chance, as he intends, with both hands.

It’s time for the negativity and moaning to stop; indeed, it’s embarrassing that it’s even started before the guy’s had the chance to so much as find his desk. People are citing fans of other clubs, taking the mick. Come on – surely we’re better than that?? Surely we’re bigger and stronger than to be bothered about what fans of lesser clubs think? We Are Leeds, after all – that still means something. Let’s not lose sight of it.

It’s time to March On Together now. We have our man, for better or worse – and we can’t yet know which it will be. Give him a chance, get behind him, support the club and its staff on and off the pitch in the way Leeds fans are famous for – loud and proud. Let’s make Elland Road a fortress again, an intimidating cauldron of noise and passion. Forget fans of other clubs, forget bandwagon jumpers and joylessly negative bloggers. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

We Are Leeds. Now let’s all get stuck into making next season as good as it possibly can be.

High Stakes at Leeds United: Is Cellino Gambling With the Fans’ Faith? – by Rob Atkinson


Cellino: gambling with high stakes?

Rumours abound that a new Head Coach appointment is imminent at Leeds United, though there is as yet no white smoke emanating from Elland Road. What there is plenty of, however, is sound and fury from the club’s supporter base, a goodly proportion of which are expressing some dissatisfaction with the mooted appointment of Dave Hockaday to the senior position within United’s first team coaching structure.  It is fair to say that some parts of his CV make for worrying reading; naysayers are quick to point at what they would term a failure at lowly Forest Green Rovers.  Others, more inclined to give a new man a fair crack of the whip, will recall that Hockaday was instrumental in the preparation of the Watford side that stepped out for a play-off final at Cardiff in 2006, looking ready for business, and easily dismissed fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United 3-0 to add another chapter to our dismal record in that end of season lottery. The truth is that nobody out here in Fanland can really know which Hockaday incarnation we are likely to see if this surprising appointment does go through.  It’s going to be very much a case of awaiting the proof of the pudding.  The big question at this time must be: just how much of a gamble is Massimo Cellino taking – and is he confident that such a relatively unknown recruit can gain the faith and trust of players and fans alike?

As my good friends and partners at GamblingSitesOnline.org would confirm, a gamble is a pleasurable distraction; an exciting chance to gain much for a relatively small outlay.  There is enjoyment win or lose, and your seasoned gambler knows the score and sets his sights accordingly.  So what is Cellino’s mindset as he contemplates the final unveiling of his head coach?  He must be aware of the need to have the bulk of the fan base on board as Leeds United embark on a vital season, with the composition of the squad still very uncertain, with the pre-season programme sketchy to say the least and with a growing sense of disgruntlement after the brief honeymoon enjoyed by the man from Cagliari via Miami.

There is even ongoing doubt about Cellino’s involvement with Leeds in the medium to long term.  The judgement of the Italian court in the Nélie yacht import duty case was not, at the time, enough to back up the Football League’s intention of blocking the Eleonora Sport takeover of United.  But a full statement of that judgement, expected within 90 days of the case initially, could – if it imputes dishonesty – open the way for further action. It is fair to say that the League are watching events closely, stung as they were by the overturning of their original decision.  The latest suggestion is that the judge in the Nélie case may even have asked for a further 90 days before handing down her reasoned judgement.  The reasons for what would be a fairly unusual request for extension of that time limit are not clear.

Any football decision is, to a greater or lesser degree, a gamble.  Football is not an exact science, and gut feeling, instinct, call it what you will, must play a large part in the process behind any transfer or other recruitment.  A man might succeed in one job, as Hockaday certainly did at Watford – and fail in another, as he appears to have done way down the ladder at Forest Green.  None of this is a sure guide to future performance – but questions will be asked by a notoriously militant group of passionate and involved supporters, about such a seemingly low-profile appointment at what is still a major football club with a global reputation.

Massimo Cellino has shown himself to be a prudent financial manager – especially for an allegedly very wealthy man – since he walked through the doors at Elland Road.  Some of his cost-cutting measures have bordered on the parsimonious, yet he has been quite prompt in paying off certain pressing bills and seeing off wolves from our door; then again, stories persist of wages unpaid as the club’s accounts have been frozen.  All in all, there has been progress of a sort – getting rid of various undesirables from the club certainly constitutes positive progress – and yet nasty little doubts persist, drifting around the club and through the hearts and minds of each devoted fan.

At the end of the day, as supporters, it behoves us to support – and that means giving the owner the latitude to make the decisions he considers necessary and best for the future of the club.  We then also have to give any Cellino appointment a chance to show us what he’s made of, instead of pouncing upon the guy before he’s even got his feet under the table.  To do otherwise would be unfair and counter-productive.  Supporters have a vital role to play in the success of any football club – and if it is to be success, then that role must be a positive one.  In other words, we need to reserve judgement and see how things pan out.  That’s the view of this blog, anyway – taken in full appreciation that these are uncertain times and that many people with Leeds United held dear in their hearts are not at all happy with the way things seem to be going.  But we have to keep the faith.

Is Cellino gambling with the hearts and minds of the fans?  Probably he is – and he will be aware that those are high stakes.  But he also has the right to expect that, as a body of support, we will keep our nerve and stay in the game.  We have to believe that, from Cellino downwards, everyone involved wants the best for the club.  Time alone will tell whether the decisions being made now will prove to be the right ones to bring about desirable outcomes – that’s the gamble we all have to be a party to.

If it is to be Hockaday – possibly with other staff yet to be confirmed alongside him – then let’s at least acknowledge them as part of Leeds United and therefore entitled to our full support.  And let’s see where we go from there. 

Leeds Front-Runner Hockaday Mirrors Beckham Experience – by Rob Atkinson


Dave “Who??” Hockaday

With only two weeks to go until the World Cup in Brazil, former England captain and global superstar David Beckham has been back in the media spotlight. A camera crew has followed the intrepid Essex boy deep into the Amazon jungle where this veteran of footballing conflicts with the likes of Diego Simeone and the Sir Alex Taggart hair dryer has encountered more natural perils such as snakes, alligators and mosquitoes.

The biggest shock for the former Premier League pin-up boy, though, was the discovery that – a mere 800 miles into the usually impenetrable rain forest of the Amazon basin – there lives a tribe of people who have never heard of him. Think of that. A whole group of villagers who have lived, moved and had their being in total ignorance of the identity and global celebrity of David Joseph Beckham.

It really does defy belief – particularly as there is a thriving Spice Girls fan club in this remote outpost. Or perhaps that’s just a mischievous rumour. Whatever the case, the fact is that just about the most famous sportsman on the planet had to journey far, far into the back of beyond to find a spot where his name and fame have failed to reach.

Spookily, the surprises don’t end there. Although these rustic and agricultural people are blissfully unaware of the global celebrity of Mr Beckham, it turns out that they worship as a god another football personality entirely – one whose name is unknown practically everywhere else on the globe, with the possible exceptions of Blackpool, Swindon and Hull.

Paradoxical as it may seem in a society innocent of any trace of Beckham mania, it is the almost totally anonymous front-runner for the Leeds job, Dave Hockaday, who is revered and idolised by these simple farmers and tillers of the Brazilian earth. Ignorant alike of the magic of Beckham’s right foot and the legendary reputations of some of the world-renowned giants he’s played for (as well as Man U), the villagers ignored him completely – and yet plied the former Real and DC United star’s camera crew for more details of Hockaday, the man they venerate as a local deity.

What about Dave’s goal-scoring exploits at Bloomfield Road, they demanded, eagerly. Could they have details, please, of his coaching contribution to Watford’s play-off success in 2006? Why had Forest Green seen fit to part company with a legend such as Hockaday – and would he, could he now be tempted to take over at Elland Road?

The previously undiscovered Amazonian village was all abuzz with these burning questions, even as they scratched their heads and wondered aloud who this Beckham geezer was. Such total and uncritical worship of a man quite literally unknown everywhere else is a phenomenon just as striking, in quite the opposite fashion, as their total lack of any idea of Beckham’s own place in the Beautiful Game.

Meanwhile, in LS11 – a society just as insular as any to be found in a South American jungle – it remains unclear as to who exactly will be granted the dubious honour of succeeding previous incumbent Brian McDermott as Leeds United coach/manager/whatever. Whether it turns out to be Hockaday himself, Uncle Festa, or any other of the rumoured ten candidates to be interviewed by il Duce Massimo Cellino, the Leeds United fans are likely to be the last people whose preference will be taken into account. That’s the way the wind is blowing and the cookie crumbling around LS11 these days.

If it is Hockaday – then perhaps we can look forward to the formation of the Amazonian Jungle Branch of the Leeds United Supporters Club. Any suggestions of Beckham for Hon. President, though, are likely to be rejected. They’d be looking for someone with Elland Road connections and – ideally – a bloke they’ve actually heard of.