The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

FLY­ING: Kieran Agard, left, cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing the third goal for Rother­ham

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