EVANS: I TO ENJOY DON’T WANT IT – JUST WIN
WHEN Rotherham manager Steve Evans leads his side out at Wembley today, the words of his old Boston United chairman Pat Malkinson will be ringing in his ears.
“Pat was a great guy to work for,” says the 51-year-old Evans, whose side beat Preston 4-2 on aggregate to book a showdown with Leyton Orient.
“He took a team to Wembley, lost, and said he had one regret – that he told them to enjoy it and forgot to tell them to win. That’s why I don’t care if we don’t enjoy it. I don’t care if it’s rubbish.
“All I hope is that when we drive away on that team coach, Rotherham are a Championship club.”
It’s why all the usual shenanigans – visiting the stadium to get acclimatised, staying in a plush hotel – will be eschewed.
“Somebody said to me ‘Do you want to go to London on Tuesday?’”he says incredulously. “What for? What are we going to do there?
“It’s got to be a normal week. We won’t be going to London three days early or any of that nonsense.We’ll train on the Saturday, get the coach down on Sunday. It’ll be a normal away day for us.”
Should Rotherham prevail, it would effectively mark a fourth promotion in as many years for Evans. Crawley Town won the Conference in 2011, and when Evans left to join Rotherham late the following season, the Red Devils were well on their way to League One.
Next came automatic promotion with the Millers and, now, a possible return to the Championship for the first time since 2005.
Even now, though, Evans remains far from popular. After his widely-publicised misdemeanors with Boston, his time at Crawley was undermined by accusations that he had spent his way to success.
That has been echoed over the last two years, especially after the opening of the New York stadium, the Millers’ plush 12,000-seater home.
“It wasn’t moneybags at Crawley, I can assure you,” he growls. “People always assume that because we paid big transfer fees. But I think when you buy Matt Tubbs for £55,000 and sell him for £650,000, you’ve earned the right to spend money.
“It was never about money there and it isn’t about money here.There were some big, big clubs in League Two last year. And there have been some absolute giants in League One.
“We pay a fraction of what they do but people see the stadium, the infrastructure and that’s why they think ‘money’.
“In that dressing room, I think we’ve bought one player, Lee Frecklington. The rest we got the same way everybody else does – on free transfers.”
Not that Evans isn’t grateful for the backing of chairman Tony Stewart, who bought the club when it was penniless and in administration at the foot of League Two.
“The day Tony Stewart walked in was the day this club was reborn,” says Evans.
“I have only worked for Tony for just over two years. But what I do know is that yes means yes, no means no and if he says he’s going to do something, he does it.
“If every football chairman did what he did, the game would be in a terrific place. It’s stunning what he’s dome.
“I go round football stadiums and I see boards made up of such-andsuch and so-and-so. I don’t know what half of them do.
“Here, I see a chairman who’s spent £35m of his own money. I see a brand new stadium in the centre of town with no debt attached to it. I see local people employed by the club. If he lived in London, he’d already be Sir Tony Stewart. But he’s in Yorkshire, so he might have to wait a bit for that.”
Evans was fulsome in his praise of vanquished opponents Preston, and of Leyton Orient who, like Rotherham, have beaten the odds to get here.
“Before we played them in the league, I said they were the hardest-working team I’d seen in League One, individually and collectively,” he said.
“They showed that in the two games against Peterborough, so it’s going to be very tough.
Russell Slade is someone
Irespect very much.” But Evans reserved the bulk of the plaudits for his own players, most of whom were there last year.
“As Claude Davis says in his programme notes for the game, these lads are genuine friends away from the club,” he said.
“The ones with wives and girlfriends spend time together, the single lads go out together.There’s a real unity and when one bleeds, they all bleed.
“It’s why this dressing room manages itself. They are very quick to identify players who aren’t pulling their weight, or being positive.
“Certain players have even said to me ‘Get him out – he doesn’t deserve to be in this group’.
“It’s great when you’ve got that. They deserve to go up, but they’ve got to earn it.”
FLYING: Kieran Agard, left, celebrates after scoring the third goal for Rotherham