While Leeds United fans were universally astounded to see new owner Massimo Cellino hire the unknown David Hockaday as head coach during the summer, the Elland Road faithful only had to wait 70 days before the former Forest Green boss was shown the door after an underwhelming start to the season.
With the Championship season still very much in its infancy, Leeds will now be looking to get a new head coach in place who can salvage something out of this campaign.
As ever with the Leeds United job, some managers will rightly view the position as something of a poisoned chalice. While the club rightly view themselves as a Premier League club in all but name, a number of proven managers have come and gone through the Elland Road doors without being able to lead Leeds back into the top flight.
After missing out on at least two of his top targets in Oscar Garcia and Tony Pulis, Leeds owner Cellino has admitted he has been inundated with applications for the head coach’s position since relieving Hockaday of his duties following the 2-1 Capital One Cup defeat to local rivals Bradford City.
Currently the betting favourite, caretaker boss Neil Redfearn has slowly worked his way into contention with the bookies after guiding the team to a 1-0 victory over Bolton following Hockaday’s departure.
While Redfearn is rumoured to be the favoured choice of Cellino, the 49-year old has made no secret over his apprehension at walking away from his current job with the club’s academy in order to take the first team job. With Cellino’s deserved reputation for sacking coaches, however, Redfearn will need to decide whether he even feels it would be worth taking the job if offered.
With a knowledge of the club and the numerous talented youngsters that continue to come through the Leeds United ranks, Redfearn is the perfect choice for the job with a lot of Leeds fans. While his lack of managerial experience could have been a negative under previous owners, Cellino’s desire for a coach rather than a manager could well be the ideal fit for Redfearn at this point in his career.
While the Leeds owner has reportedly made it clear he wants another British coach for the job, Giuseppe Sannino has been in and around the front-runners for the job since Hockaday’s exit. The Italian’s brief but successful spell in charge of Watford came to an end last month despite Sannino guiding the club to second in the Championship after winning four of their opening five games.
The 57-year old’s experience of English football, however brief, appears to have put him among the candidates with Cellino, who could be prepared to hire a coach who would understand the Italian way of doing things. One concern for Leeds fans will be the rumoured discord amongst the Watford squad under Sannino, with reports that the Italian’s hard-line methods had left some players unhappy.
One named rumoured to be near the top of Leeds’ shortlist is former West Brom boss Steve Clarke. The Scotsman has been out of work since leaving the Hawthorns last December, and a move to Elland Road is something Clarke would be open to according to some sources. With a C.V. boasting spells as assistant manager with Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham and Newcastle as well as his stint as West Brom boss, Clarke could well be the most qualified man for the position at Elland Road.
While the Leeds job is reportedly one Clarke is keen on, it remains to be seen whether or not the 51-year old would be willing to work under an owner like Cellino. The fiery Italian, who has a massive say on player signings, has never been shy in making his feelings known regarding his managers. On more than one occasion during his brief tenure, Hockaday was forced to field questions from journalists regarding comments made by Cellino about his head coach.
After leading the club back into the Championship following three years spent in League One, Simon Grayson will forever hold a special place in Leeds’ fans’ hearts, and it’s perhaps unsurprising to see the former manager linked with a return. While Grayson is currently employed by Preston, the former Blackpool manager has never hidden his desire to return to Elland Road one day in order to finish a job he feels was left incomplete when he was sacked in 2012. After the overwhelming negativity surrounding Hockaday’s appointment, Cellino will know he could do a lot worse than hire the man who last delivered any real success to these Leeds fans.
After a promising start to the League One season, Preston would be far from happy about the prospect of losing their manager, however, and the Lancastrians could make it hard for Leeds to tear Grayson from their grasp should the West Yorkshire club come calling.