Fallen Leeds United show no signs of halting slide to oblivion
As the mocking chants of "You`re getting sacked in the morning" grew louder, David Hockaday realised he was about to become the latest victim of Leeds United`s astonishing decline.
London: As the mocking chants of "You`re getting sacked in the morning" grew louder, David Hockaday realised he was about to become the latest victim of Leeds United`s astonishing decline.
The Leeds supporters who turned their anger on Hockaday during a dismal 2-1 defeat at Bradford in the League Cup second round last month got their wish as the beleaguered boss was sacked 24 hours later after only six matches and 70 days in charge of the fallen giants.
The shambolic situation was laced with a healthy dose of irony for students of the Yorkshire club`s slide into the abyss as Hockaday`s dismissal coincided with England call-ups for Danny Rose and Fabian Delph -- two products of the Leeds academy who had to go elsewhere to fulfill their ambitions.
It wasn`t always this way at Elland Road.
For a time, Leeds were one of England`s superpowers, winning the title in 1969 and 1974 and reaching the European Cup final in 1975.
Even that era featured Brian Clough`s infamous 44-day spell in charge, which saw the legendary manager fall foul of a player revolt, inspiring the David Peace novel `The Damned United` and a film of the same name starring Michael Sheen.
But under Howard Wilkinson`s no-nonsense management and inspired by the goals of Eric Cantona, they returned to the summit as the last champions of the pre-Premier League era in 1992.
And only 13 years ago, Leeds were regarded as one of emerging forces in Europe after a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals fuelled by bright young talents Harry Kewell, Alan Smith and Paul Robinson.Yet just over a decade later, one of English football`s most historic institutions is mired in yet another season of strife.
Since crashing out of the Premier League in 2004 after falling foul of a financial meltdown triggered by chairman Peter Ridsdale`s unsustainable desire to "live the dream" with a series of big-money signings, Leeds fans have suffered one indignity after another.
They even plummeted into the third tier for three seasons, with promotion back to the Championship in 2010 proving only a temporary respite from the misery.
Under eccentric Italian owner Massimo Cellino, Leeds have been reduced to the diminished status of a second tier laughing stock.
Cellino spent several months engaged in a battle to take over Leeds after the Football League initially tried to block his ownership bid following his legal troubles in Italy.
When Cellino, nicknamed the `manager-eater` after sacking 36 bosses during his 20 years with Cagliari, eventually did wrestle control of the club, he added to his reputation by dismissing, and then reinstating, Brian McDermott.
His harsh treatment of the dignified McDermott hardly endeared Cellino to long-suffering Leeds fans, but that didn`t stop him sacking him again in the close season after a 15th place finish in the Championship.
That was the signal for more farcial antics as Cellino selected Hockaday, an unknown with no Football League management experience, as the new boss.
Soon stories were leaking out of Elland Road about players being forced to wash their own kit and being told to bring packed lunches to the club`s Thorp Arch training ground as Cellino instituted a series of cost-cutting measures.
It was also reported that Cellino had banned the colour purple on superstitious grounds and was refusing to play Paddy Kenny because he believed the goalkeeper`s number 17 shirt was bad luck.
When star striker Ross McCormack was sold to second tier rivals Fulham on the eve of the new season, Leeds` already fragile confidence was shattered and the team, with only two wins so far, find themselves languishing below the likes of Bournemouth, Brentford and Rotherham in 18th place.
In better days, Leeds fans would proudly sing of `marching on together` after another victory, but right now their club seems more intent of hurtling towards oblivion.