LEEDS owner Massimo Cellino has given boss Dave Hockaday an unexpected lifeline after reversing out of his decision to sack him just five games into the season.

Cellino earned his unflattering nickname of the 'manager eater' during his time in charge of Cagliari, where he went through 36 managers in 20 years, and he has already looked to pull the trigger during his short time at Leeds.

Hockaday – the man he appointed to much derision in June owing to his limited experience – was set to be his next sacking in the wake of Leeds' 4-1 defeat at Watford on Saturday, but 57-year-old Italian Cellino has had an unexpected change of heart.

Cellino admitted in local media interviews that Hockaday was set for the exit door, before the club's official Twitter account said tonight: "In response to recent media speculation the club can confirm that David Hockaday remains the head coach of Leeds United."

Cellino attempted to sack then-Leeds manager Brian McDermott within hours of verbally agreeing a deal to buy a controlling stake in the club with GFH Capital at the end of January.

McDermott stayed until the end of the season and departed by mutual consent at the end of May.

Today was Hockaday's 66th day in charge of Leeds, having been given the job by Cellino to much surprise, with the Italian saying at his unveiling that he could not remember who tipped him off about the former Hull defender whose best managerial return is a tenth-placed finish with Conference side Forest Green.

Hockaday insisted he was not shocked to get the call from Cellino, though, citing extensive coaching experience with the likes of Southampton and Watford.

When he oversaw a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough in his first home game in charge last weekend, he appeared to be proving a point.

Defeats to Brighton and Watford since then have turned an already-upset support against him, however, with chants of "This club's too big for you" heard at both games.

It appeared that Cellino thought the same thing on Saturday night and Sunday morning

He said: "Yes, I decided to sack him. I said 'he's finished.' But I learned a long time ago to wait on a decision for 24 hours."

Hockaday has been keen to point out that his remit is to coach the players and not negotiate transfers and Cellino, who has signed some 11 new faces, added: "If I fire the coach I should fire myself because I haven't signed enough good players. How can that be his fault."

One obvious problem for Cellino should he sack Hockaday is the lack of an obvious replacement.

Former Sheffield Wednesday striker Benito Carbone joined the coaching staff in the summer but has since been removed, while other members of the coaching staff in Leigh Bromby, Nigel Gibbs and Richard Naylor have lost their jobs too.

Academy boss Neil Redfearn would be Cellino's only genuine in-house option ahead of Wednesday's local derby with the Bantams and the former Barnsley captain has no desire to coach the first team on a permanent basis.

At Vicarage Road, the two sides went into the break level after a Gabriel Tamas own goal cancelled out Fernando Forestieri’s opener.

But Watford pulled clear after the break when Troy Deeney scored a penalty after Forestieri had been fouled by Giuseppe Bellusci.

The defender was sent off and Forestieri and Daniel Tozser added goals three and four. Leeds’ misery was compounded when Sam Byram saw red after clashing with Daniel Pudil.

Hockaday had no doubt the game swung on Bellusci's foul on Forestieri and the subsequent penalty.

"Whatever minute the penalty was correctly awarded, and probably a few seconds before that with the decision to kick it with the outside of the foot," he said.

"Up until then I thought we looked very, very comfortable.

"I thought we were passing the ball well, frustrating them, they were getting very frustrated and animated on their bench, they were changing things.

"I thought we came here and did a very, very good job and played some decent stuff which I'm very, very happy with.

Asked if Bellusci had to carry the can for the defeat, Hockaday replied: "Yes, he knows that.

"I've told him in no uncertain terms, he's apologised to the team for what it's worth but it's something I can't legislate for with regards to the coaching.

"The players are taking on board the way we want to play, I think everyone can see that.
"We're trying to turn this big ship around which is going to take time but moments like that don't help."