Sources close to Cellino said Hockaday’s appointment was likely to materialise in the next 24 hours after Reading priced Eamonn Dolan out of the vacancy at Elland Road.
Dolan - Reading’s academy manager - emerged as Cellino’s first choice for the post and looked set to secure it a week ago but Cellino returned his focus to Hockaday after refusing to meet Reading’s demand for around £500,000 in compensation.
The Berkshire club are in the process of a takeover by Thai businessman Samrit Bunditkitsada, a buy-out which should see Dolan offered an improved contract on top of a deal which already runs for another three years.
Reading were unreceptive to United’s interest and Cellino’s reluctance to pay a fee for the Irishman once again left Hockaday in prime position to assume the job of first-team boss.
56-year-old Hockaday has been out of work since his four-year reign at Forest Green Rovers ended last October.
His record shows spells as a coach with Leicester City and Southampton and he worked as assistant manager at Watford, operating under Aidy Boothroyd in the year that Watford beat United in the Championship play-off final.
Cellino is still to officially sanction Hockaday’s arrival but if he does secure the head coach’s job at Elland Road, he is likely to add Junior Lewis to United’s coaching staff.
The employment of Lewis, who coaches non-league Hendon and had a long playing career in the Football League, is believed to have been discussed by Cellino and Hockaday during talks between the pair.
Leeds have been looking for a head coach since parting company with Brian McDermott on May 30 and the club are under pressure to fill the vacancy with pre-season training just a week away.