Saturday, 28 June 2014

McCormack tells Leeds he wants to leave

Star striker Ross McCormack has rocked Leeds United by telling owner Massimo Cellino that he wants to leave the club.

McCormack, 27, informed Cellino of his decision at a face to face meeting at Elland Road earlier this week. 

The Scotland international was top scorer in the Championship last season with 29 goals. He was also Leeds' player of the season. 

Italian Cellino has always said he is determined to keep McCormack - but only if the player wants to stay. 

And the 57-year-old was shocked and saddened by McCormack's decision. 

Cardiff, Norwich, Fulham and Derby have all made enquiries about the prolific striker and his exit now seems inevitable. 

The news will be another big blow to fans of the Yorkshire giants. Many are angry after little-known Dave Hockaday was appointed head coach of the club last week. 

McCormack has been at Leeds for four seasons and is a huge fan favourite. 

He did turn up for the first day of pre-season training on Thursday and for the club's kit launch this morning, but it is uncertain whether he will join the rest of the players on their training camp in Italy next week.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Reasons for Dave Hockaday appointment

The headline on the Sun story I wrote about Dave Hockaday's imminent appointment as Leeds head coach yesterday read 'Shockaday'.

That seemed appropriate, because there does seem to be a shock-a-day at Leeds at the moment.

North-easterner Hockaday was unveiled at a press conference at Elland Road on Wednesday, but it was notable that Massimo Cellino probably did 95% of the talking.

He even finished off a couple of Hockaday's answers for him.

The Italian said he was unaware of the level of fan opposition to the appointment (85% against in a Yorkshire Evening Post poll; uproar on Twitter), because he doesn't read newspapers or look at the internet.

Probably just as well eh.

As usual, some of the Cellino quotes were gems.

He seemed genuinely bemused by opposition to the appointment, emphasising he wants the club back in the Premier League and everything he does is geared towards that.

"You've had 12 bad years here," he said. "Isn't it time to try something different and to trust me?"

He then looked at the assembled journalists and said: "Don't you want to be covering a Premier League team, to come on this journey with me?"

He then recounted a story about seeing kids with old, tatty shoes queuing with their parents in the club shop to buy season tickets. He said that bestowed a great sense of responsibility on him.

So what were the motivations for the appointment? After all, few of us (certainly not me) had even heard of Dave Hockaday a month ago.

This is what I think and have gleaned.

Now, finance did play a role. The club's financial situation is pretty parlous, as we know.

Brian McDermott was on £750,000 a year and received a pay-off of about £750,000 (payable in instalments) for the two years remaining on his contract when he left by mutual consent at the end of last month.

Hockaday will be on less than a quarter of that amount.

He was also available, so no compensation had to to be paid. That was what put Cellino off the other main contender for the job, Eamonn Dolan, who had three years left on a pretty lucrative deal at Reading.

But it's far too simplistic to say that finances were the only factor.

Cellino wanted a coach, a tracksuit man, and says he's sure of Hockaday's coaching ability.

He also thinks this is a man who will be highly motivated and will live and breath the job, because it's his big (and probably) only chance to make it as a head coach at a stellar club.

Cellino wasn't convinced that some of the other names touted for the job would have been willing to give as much.

Now there are concerns, of course. How will the players respond to Hockaday, for a start?

After all, professional footballers can be a very cynical bunch.

Well Cellino has the answer for that. He'll be pretty much ever-present - at the training ground, observing the session, always watching on.

He says he will be the leader of the club and the team, their focal point, and that the players will have to respect the coach he has chosen.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The search for Leeds United's new head coach

Here's what I know so far... and the bookies might be ahead of me on this one.

After all, William Hill have tonight suspended betting on the identity of the next Leeds boss, while others have Eamonn Dolan as short as 1/10 to take over from Brian McDermott.

Massimo Cellino spoke to the agent of the Reading academy chief on Saturday, although not to the man himself.

Dolan - a close friend of McDermott's - has three years left on his contract at Reading.

So there could be some negotiating to do with the Berkshire club - if indeed Dolan is deemed to be the right man for the Leeds job.

The other name in the frame - certainly at the weekend, anyway - was former Forest Green manager Dave Hockaday, who spoke to Cellino a couple of weeks ago and has remained a strong contender ever since.

Gary McAllister has also been linked with the role, although it's my understanding he isn't being considered.

Cellino did speak to the Leeds legend in London a week ago, having first met him a month earlier.

But these were just informal meetings, by all accounts, in which the pair got on well (who wouldn't get on with Gary McAllister?) But there were no further meetings this weekend, as has been reported, and certainly not a formal interview.

Whatever happens, it seems certain the next Leeds boss will not be the 'big name' many fans crave, but rather a low-profile coach who is happiest wearing a tracksuit and putting the players through their paces on the training ground.

Cellino is currently in Italy and due to return to Elland Road on Thursday.