Leeds United: Massimo Cellino likens coaches to watermelon

Massimo Cellino
Cellino sold Italian club Cagliari earlier this month

Leeds owner Massimo Cellino made it clear he will quickly sack head coach Dave Hockaday if he feels appointing the ex-Forest Green boss was a mistake.

Hockaday, 56, was named as Brian McDermott's replacement on Thursday.

"Coaches are like watermelons, you only know [how good it is] when you open it," said the Italian.

"Sometimes I haven't fired a coach because I wanted to protect my choice. That is the more dangerous thing. You must protect the club, not your ego."

The former Cagliari owner explained why he appointed Hockaday when many of the club's supporters would have preferred a better known name, but maintained he would leave team matters to his new coach.

"I didn't buy any players before choosing the coach. I was waiting to choose the coach first, and then make the decision. He asks for what he needs, we know how he's going to play, we know what we can afford - the financial part and the technical part must get along together.

"I like to buy players, I love to help the coach. I want to make him good."

Hockaday, who said he did not know whether Cellino intended to bring a director of football, described the arrangement as "very continental".

"He asked me to be his coach - to coach the players, to get them fit, to teach them, to improve them, to pick the team, to manage the team on a match-day, but that's it. That's what I do, it's my passion, so hand in a glove," said the former Hull City defender.

"I'm going to come here and work hard and that evidence will be seen on the pitch. I played for 20 years, over 650 senior games. I've coached at every level, in every league, from the Premier League to the Conference, that's what I'm about, and all of that has a relevance to what I bring here.

"I got promotion as a player five times, I got promoted from the Championship from Watford, I'm the sum of my experiences. You learn more about yourself in adversity."

Cellino said he would not be replicating what he said were mistakes made by the club in previous years.

"I've been told since I arrived here the club is a sleeping giant. I found out it wasn't sleeping, it was close to dead. Showbusiness is very important in football, but now is the time to be silent and to work.

"We want to do good, we have to respect the fans and we'd like to give them more than they expect, but I don't want to run a club with the pressure that if we don't go into the Premier League, and don't have the television money, we can't pay our debts.

In search of the real Cellino

"What I've learned is sometimes to make the fans happy and the press happy by giving them big names, it kills the club, because you have to be able to afford to pay big wages, big money. My experience helps me to know what I'm doing.

"We need a lot of passion. For him it's a big challenge. I spoke with 20 coaches - no-one I liked except him. We spoke about position, players, what we like - we were talking about football, not money. Players are kids, with kids' psychologies - they are not men. Football is a very simple thing.

"The fans have to trust me, that I am trying to change things, because what has been done over the last 12 years has not been right, because they are still in the Championship."

Cellino said he was looking to move away from the club's Thorp Arch training complex, around eight miles north of the city.

"I don't think it is a very lucky place, it was built in 2002 and since then we are down. We are looking for somewhere new, nearer the ground."

He also said the club intended to retain striker Ross McCormack, who has been the subject of a £5m bid from Fulham.

"If Liverpool, Real Madrid or Paris St Germain came in I couldn't say to him no, but if another Championship club came in, McCormack belongs to Leeds. He says he's happy here. He says he loves it."

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