SAINTS coach Dave Hockaday has been placed on gardening leave by the club, the Daily Echo understands.

The first team assistant coach was absent from the dugout for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Doncaster.

Hockaday, pictured right with the Saints squad, is also thought not to have been seen at the club’s Staplewood training ground for the last week or so.

The reasons for Hockaday being placed on gardening leave by the club are as yet unclear.

The former Watford first-team coach was thought to be a frontrunner for the vacant Swindon Town job, before Danny Wilson was appointed at the County Ground last month.

The Daily Echo contacted Hockaday, but he would not make any comment on the situation.

A club spokesman said they would not be making any comment, as the matter was an employment issue.

Hockaday, 51, succeeded Georges Prost as coach of the academy side in June 2007.

He was then promoted to work with the first team in May last year, following the arrival of head coach Jan Poortvliet.

Born in Sedgefield, Hockaday began his playing career as a full back at Blackpool in 1975.

He went on to make more than 600 appearances in the professional leagues, also playing for Swindon, Hull City, Stoke and Shrewsbury.

In his time as a player, Hockaday won five promotions – three as league champions and two via the playoffs.

In 1995 he established the Cirencester Town Academy – the first of its kind in the country.

He got his first coaching job in the Football League with Watford in 2000, when former England boss Graham Taylor was manager.

Hockaday took over as under-18s coach, helping to develop the careers of players such as Ashley Young, Hameur Bouazza, Tommy Smith and Al Bangura.

In 2005, he was promoted to first-team coach at Vicarage Road, helping Aidy Boothroyd take the club to the Premier League.

However, he was let go by the Hornets, as they struggled to escape relegation, in January 2007.

Hockaday then went on to assist Martin Allen for a brief spell at the MK Dons, before being appointed at Saints.