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Old 21st October 2015, 12:32   #1
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Default Steve Evans not worried about his future, but Leeds’s still looks bleak

Steve Evans not worried about his future, but Leeds’s still looks bleak

Evans spoke at his introduction as Leeds United manager of a glorious opportunity ahead, but for most at Elland Road glory is but a memory

James Riach
The Guardian
Wednesday 21 October 2015 00.30 BST

Other than referring to himself in the third person, Steve Evans certainly talked a good game during his unveiling as the sixth Leeds United coach in 18 months. Unfortunately for him, many others have done the same but found themselves swimming against the tide without even a goldfish for company.

Just when you thought Leeds had hit the nadir, when the circus had left town for summer, they descend into deeper disarray. Massimo Cellino, the Italian who bought the Championship club in April 2014, knew of his second Football League disqualification last Wednesday. Since then he has decided to cap Leeds’ ticket allocation for away matches at 2,000 before reversing that decision, sack Uwe Rösler after 12 matches and appoint Evans until the end of the season. All in a week’s work.

Bizarrely, Evans and Neil Redfearn have exchanged places at Leeds and Rotherham in a matter of months. Redfearn’s treatment at the hands of Cellino left the sourest taste of all five head coaches the former Cagliari owner has sacked, and Evans should be well aware that he will probably not be numero uno at Elland Road for very long at all.

He asked supporters to give him a chance, said that he would fight for the club with passion and pride, harking back to the days of Bremner, Lorimer and Gray. Those times are long gone for a club in dire need of direction, where the last home victory was more than seven months ago and a defeat at Fulham on Wednesday night could potentially leave them in the bottom three.

“It’s wedding days, it’s babies being born, it’s your first date all rolled into one,” said Evans of his appointment at an opening press conference. “It’s overwhelming. You realise the size of the opportunity you’ve been given and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll give it everything I’ve got.

“When Leeds United ring you up, how can you say no? I had a wonderful exchange of messages with Brian McDermott yesterday, a good football man. How can you say no when Leeds United ring you? I walked through the city last night and had Leeds United supporters shouting my name and shaking my hand. Wow.”

McDermott, Dave Hockaday, Darko Milanic, Redfearn and Rösler have all been and gone under Cellino, who will be suspended until June 2016. The businessman, who employed 36 managers in 22 years at Cagliari, was found guilty in June for non-payment of tax on a Range Rover in Italy and falls foul of the FA’s owners’ and directors’ test. Although he can appeal until 28 October, a similar charge on a boat – the Nelie – resulted in a League disqualification last season.

How the club will be run during Cellino’s likely absence is a key question. Evans insisted the owner’s hiatus would not affect team matters, but in the long term it surely does. Players are able to distract themselves from certain things, yet when an offer from elsewhere arrives, the state of the club they are at is a crucial consideration.

Eleven years ago Leeds’ relegation from the Premier League caused a firesale of local talent. Alan Smith, James Milner and Aaron Lennon were sold at a cut price. After them came Fabian Delph and before them were numerous academy products who went on to international stardom.

Leeds do not own their stadium or training ground. Other than the supporters, United’s only assets are the players. In the current squad, Lewis Cook (18), Alex Mowatt (20), Charlie Taylor (22) and Sam Byram (22) have produced performances impressive enough to earn a future in the Premier League. Soon these players will be the subject of transfer bids.

When that happens, loyalty to Leeds will only go so far if the club continues to struggle in such lamentable fashion. Unless Evans can get a quick reaction, unless results come immediately, there will undoubtedly be more upheaval and more serious consequences.

Cellino technically cannot sack the head coach while he is suspended. However, during his ban last season the assistant manager to Redfearn, Steve Thompson, was suspended by the club without a legitimate reason.

For Evans, like his predecessors under Cellino, initial thoughts did not stray from a glorious opportunity ahead. “I don’t know the president enough to know that I can ever tame him,” he said. “He’s a very passionate man. Believe me, he wants to win football matches. The biggest question is do I get first and last say [on team selection]. The president was very clear that I get the first and last say.

“I’ll give you a team that plays with passion and plays with pride. Steve Evans doesn’t lie in bed and dream. I’m a realist. Everyone’s aware of the head coaches that have been here and left. But I have to believe in myself. How can you fear being sacked at Leeds United?”
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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