The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy BIG IN­TER­VIEW: STEVE

STEVE Evans squeezes his con­sid­er­able frame onto a small blue set­tee and kicks off our in­ter­view with a ques­tion of his own. “You ever been in here be­fore?”he asks, ges­tur­ing around his sparsely fur­nished of­fice at Leeds’ plush Thorpe Arch HQ.

“No? Well let me tell you – no Leeds man­ager has ever used this place as an of­fice be­fore. And I’ve de­lib­er­ately picked it that way. I didn’t want to sit in the same chair as some­one who’d failed.”

Fail­ure, of course, is a rel­a­tive con­cept at a club where the fin­ger of owner Mas­simo Cellino rarely strays far from the eject but­ton.

Eject but­ton

The Ital­ian – nick­named the ‘Man­ager Eater’ in his home­land – has em­ployed six dif­fer­ent bosses in his 18 months at the helm. The lat­est, Uwe Rosler, lasted just 12 games. Does Evans re­ally ex­pect to see much of this tiny room be­fore be­ing bun­dled on his way?

“That’s been said to me by a lot of peo­ple in the game,” ad­mits the Scot, who left Rother­ham in Septem­ber. “From the high­est lev­els to peo­ple in Non-League.

“But what do you ex­pect me to do? I can’t turn down a club like Leeds.I’m not an ex-Pre­mier League star.I started out in Non-League, train­ing on pub­lic parks and shov­el­ling dog dirt off the pitch.

“I don’t turn up and think ‘This is wrong, that could be bet­ter’. I turn up and think every­thing is mag­i­cal. I’ve gone from a 20-foot boat in the ocean to an ab­so­lute oil tanker.

“How long will it last? I heard Stu­art Pearce on talkSPORT say­ing it would be three weeks. I joked to my play­ers that they had to see me through to Fri­day. Who knows? My ap­proach is that ev­ery day in the chair is a good day.”

But for the an­tic­i­pated brevity of his stay – and their gen­eral dis­en­chant­ment – Leeds fans might have kicked up more of a stink at the ar­rival of a man widely re­viled on the ter­races.

From his crim­i­nal past at Bos­ton to his touch­line histri­on­ics and hand gre­nade press con­fer­ences,few men in foot­ball pro­voke bile and dis­gust like the 51-year-old Glaswe­gian.

Does Evans, who lives near Peter­bor­ough with his wife and teenage daugh­ters, be­lieve the stick is jus­ti­fied?

“Foot­ball is a game of jeal­ousy,” he says. “Of re­sent­ing oth­ers’ suc­cess. We have this Bri­tish trait of build­ing peo­ple up to smash them down.What hap­pened at Bos­ton was 14 or 15 years ago. Some of the peo­ple who abuse me on so­cial me­dia weren’t even born.

“What they re­sent is the fact that Steve Evans wins foot­ball matches. If I was man­ag­ing their club, I bet they’d think dif­fer­ently.

“Do I re­gret what hap­pened in the past? Of course. I’d be very fool­ish to sit here as a re­spon­si­ble fa­ther and say I wouldn’t turn the clock back.

“But I can’t undo my mis­takes. As I say to ev­ery­one who asks me about the past, I can’t re­write his­tory. All I can do is af­fect to­day and af­fect the fu­ture. Every­thing else is gone.”

Evans is keen to throw him­self into com­mu­nity work and hospi­tal vis­its. “I did all of that at Rother­ham,” he ex­plains.“I just wanted to show them that there was a dif­fer­ent side to Steve Evans than the scream­ing, sweat­ing ogre on the side­lines.”

What can­not be de­nied is that Evans – while still manic – is a far calmer fig­ure than the man once handed a ten-game sta­dium ban for be­rat­ing ref­er­ees.

For that, he cred­its Rother­ham, the club he joined in 2012 and led to suc­ces­sive pro­mo­tions, and their chair­man Tony Stew­art.


“Tony al­ways had a say­ing,” he ex­plains. “‘If we’re not in con­trol, where are we?’He loved my pas­sion, my de­sire to win. He said ‘You can have all that – but how you show it needs to change’.

“He made me re­alise it was about be­ing more re­spect­ful.Yes, ques­tion ref­er­ees, but don’t shout in their face.”

Evans speaks of Stew­art with great af­fec­tion.“We had a fan­tas­tic re­la­tion­ship,” he says. “If I wasn’t at home,I’d be in his com­pany for two or three hours ev­ery day.

“I’d go round to his house and we’d sit in the garage hav­ing a bit of wine. And we didn’t al­ways talk about foot­ball. He’d tell me about things that were go­ing on in his busi­ness and we’d talk about our fam­i­lies.We were real tight.”

So why, just days af­ter an im­pres­sive 2-1 vic­tory over Birm­ing­ham, did this seem­ingly happy mar­riage abruptly hit the skids? In short, Stew­art wanted a trans­fer com­mit­tee and Evans did not.

“I’m a great be­liever that if some­thing works, keep do­ing it,” he says. “If a striker is late for train­ing be­cause he took a wrong turn and

then scores a hat-trick, I’ll say ‘Do it again’.

“For three-and-a-half years, it was me, Tony, and his son, Richard. We made the de­ci­sions – end of.

“What they wanted to do was go back to a tech­ni­cal board with six or seven peo­ple. My un­der­stand­ing was that every­thing would work on a ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion. That didn’t work for me.

“I ex­pressed an opin­ion. Tony ex­pressed his. And at the end he said,‘We’re re­ally go­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions here, mate’.

“We worked out a state­ment. I went to tell the staff. Then I went down to see Tony again and we said ‘Is this re­ally hap­pen­ing then?’

“If the cleaner had walked in, they’d have seen us stood in his of­fice, hug­ging each other in tears. I know peo­ple will say ‘Is that re­ally true?’ But I swear it is. And that’s why, for the next 25 years or so that I’m on the planet, we’ll be good friends.”

Some­how, it’s hard to imag­ine Cellino shed­ding tears over los­ing a man­ager. And does Evans re­ally ex­pect to be given fi­nal say on trans­fers by a man pre­vi­ously prone to pick­ing the team?

“I wouldn’t have come with­out that as­sur­ance,” in­sists Evans, whose first game ended in a 1-1 draw at Ful­ham. “And let me tell you some­thing. Tony would some­times ask what my team was on a Fri­day af­ter­noon. Against Ful­ham, the first the pres­i­dent knew about it was when the team-sheets were handed out.

“I can’t con­trol the chair­man.I can con­trol the team.And what I prom­ise Leeds fans is a team that give it a go and man­ager who shows a bit of pas­sion. I put my life into my job. And to me, this job is be­yond my wildest dreams.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

THANKS: Steve Evans ap­plauds the Leeds fans on his open­ing night at Ful­ham BIG PALS: Steve Evans with Rother­ham chair­man Tony Stew­art

FIRST OF MANY? Chris Wood lev­els from the spot in the 1-1 draw at Ful­ham MANAGEREATER: Mas­simo Cellino

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