Virgil van Dijk: Leeds United didn’t sign Liverpool defender from Celtic due to former chairman Massimo Cellino

27 Feb

Almost five years ago David Hockaday was handed one of the biggest jobs in the Championship when he took charge of Leeds United.

The former winger, who is now head of male football at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College (SGS), was surprisingly given the Elland Road job by the club’s then chairman Massimo Cellino.

Hockaday was a shock appointment as Leeds manager

However, he lasted just 70 days in the dugout and was the first manager to fall victim to the free-firing Cellino during the Italian’s turbulent three year regime in charge of the Whites.

Speaking to the Guardian, Hockaday has shed some light on the carnage of his time at Leeds and believes Marcelo Bielsa has it a lot easier as Whites boss now.

He said: “I was going into Championship games blind – it was crazy.

“I’ve seen [Marcelo] Bielsa going on about all this data, but we had nothing.

“We had just one match analyst, one strength and conditioning coach and it just felt unprofessional.

“I was thrown to the dogs, just scrambling to get information on the opposition by phoning up other managers who had played the teams.

“I went in at ground zero. There was virtually nothing.”

Hockaday reminisced about the chaotic structure of recruitment in his time as Leeds boss, stating he was often shut down by his chairman when recommending his targets.

He claimed : “He [Cellino] said: ‘Go and get me a young, unproven striker that will score goals and we can sell on.

Cellino fired many managers whilst chairman of Leeds United

“I said: ‘Andre Gray.’ A few days later, he said: ‘No, I’ve spoken to him and his agent, he’s too much.’

“I said: ‘From Luton to Leeds United, and he’s too much?’ Later into the season, he goes and gets [Mirco] Antenucci for millions of pounds.”

Hockaday also revealed he could have signed Virgil van Dijk, then of Celtic, Craig Cathcart and Conor Coady during his time as manager – but the suggestions were dismissed by Cellino who wanted Leeds to sign young Italian talent instead.

Hockaday said he recommended Van Dijk but his suggestion was dismissed

“Flipping heck,” Hockaday continued. “Don’t make me cry.

“I was scratching my head being told ‘no’ about those I had recommended while we were getting in these Italian-based players who were nowhere near it. That’s what killed me.”