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.