GOOD, BAD & UGLY

Ex-Shrews­bury mid­fielder Paul Evans tells us about his ca­reer

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By John Lyons

MID­FIELDER Paul Evans played for a host of Foot­ball League clubs in a 16year pro­fes­sional ca­reer and was known for his rocket shot, even scor­ing from the half­way line for Brent­ford.

Now work­ing as first-team masseur at Leeds United, he tells us about his early days with Shrews­bury Town, why Bury’s Darren Bul­lock was his tough­est op­po­nent and how rep­re­sent­ing Wales was the pin­na­cle…

FIRST CLUB

Shrews­bury Town. I was play­ing in a schools tour­na­ment and got scouted there, but then they for­got about me. Later, I was play­ing for my lo­cal team, Oswestry Boys Club, and we were in­vited to Shrews­bury Town be­cause we’d had the re­sult of the week­end.

The man­ager, Ian McNeill, said ‘Why aren’t you here?’. I joined on school­boy forms when I was 13 or 14 and then be­came an ap­pren­tice. I made my de­but a cou­ple of months af­ter my 17th birth­day.

It was against Stock­port County and that big unit, Kevin Fran­cis, was play­ing for them. Thank­fully, I came on with 15 min­utes to go when we were al­ready 4-1 up.

BEST MAN­AGER

I’d have to say Ray Lew­ing­ton and then Steve Cop­pell when I was at Brent­ford.

I liked the way they talked with the play­ers, the way they tried to pass things on. They were the same with ev­ery player.

They were very knowl­edge­able and I re­ally en­joyed play­ing for them.

It was a mas­sive stan­dard of coach­ing. I had never re­ally been coached be­fore. I would get a DVD and watch Pre­mier League play­ers like David Batty.

I also had a short spell at Swin­don with Den­nis Wise and Gus Poyet. They knew their stuff.

BEST TEAM­MATE

Gavin Ma­hon. We roomed to­gether at Brent­ford and he taught me how to iron! Gavin was very un­der-rated by peo­ple out­side the club, but not in­side.

All the play­ers knew how good he was and he had a great ca­reer, cap­tain­ing Wat­ford into the Pre­mier League. I should also men­tion Paul Ger­rard at Not­ting­ham For­est. We signed on the same day and hit it off. He was at a dif­fer­ent level to most in how pro­fes­sional he was.

He hated get­ting beaten in shoot­ing prac­tice. He would give the for­wards stick and they would give it back. A gen­uine guy.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

It was from Divi­sion Three with Shrews­bury in 1993-94. It was my first year as a pro­fes­sional and the sea­son started bril­liantly. I played 14 15 games early on and then we played Black­burn Rovers away and I got dropped.

I just didn’t get back in af­ter that. It was gut­ting not be­ing in­volved, but we won the league and I did get a medal. I’d played my games at the start.

Later, I won pro­mo­tions with Brent­ford (Divi­sion Three cham­pi­ons in 1998-99) and Swin­don (League Two in 2006-07), so I’ve got some good mem­o­ries.

FUNNIEST PLAYER

Kyle Nix at Brad­ford. He was chop­ping gear up and do­ing all sorts. He would put deep heat on your box­ers. When peo­ple cot­toned on, he’d put it on your track­suit bot­toms or jeans in­stead.

He caught me out once. I was on fire!

Alan Rogers was a loose can­non at Not­ting­ham For­est. No-one was safe.

FUNNIEST IN­CI­DENT

It was prob­a­bly fun­nier for ev­ery­one else, rather than for me. It was away to Pre­ston and Dick­son Etuhu was play­ing for them. We had been go­ing at it all game. Then he dropped down on his knees and started talk­ing to me. He was still taller than me. That was a night­mare!

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

It would have to be play­ing for my coun­try, Wales – that was un­be­liev­able. I was at Brent­ford at the time and a month or so be­fore they were try­ing to sell me to Bris­tol City. One day, Steve Cop­pell said ‘con­grat­u­la­tions’, but I said, ‘I’m not go­ing any­where’. Then he said, ‘No, you’ve been called up for the full Wales squad’. I got my boots and went to Cardiff as quickly as I could. Mark Hughes (man­ager) and Ed­die Niedzwiecki (coach) said, ‘We didn’t ex­pect you un­til to­mor­row’. I said ‘I wanted to get here be­fore you changed your mind!’.

I made my de­but in a 0-0 draw against the Czech Repub­lic and played in one more friendly. I was in the squad for about six months. It was amaz­ing.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

I’ve had a few! A few years af­ter win­ning the league at Shrews­bury we got rel­e­gated (1996-97). Get­ting rel­e­gated to League One with Not­ting­ham For­est (2004-05) was also hard to take.

At Brent­ford, los­ing the play-off fi­nal to Stoke (Divi­sion Two, 2002) was very sad.

No one gave us a prayer that sea­son, but Steve Cop­pell moulded a very good team, largely from a bunch of free trans­fers and loan play­ers.

We just missed out on pro­mo­tion on the last day of the sea­son against Read­ing and then lost the play-off fi­nal.

A lot of play­ers were out of con­tract, so the team broke up af­ter that…

TOUGH­EST PLACE TO GO

I never en­joyed play­ing at Wal­sall’s Bescot Sta­dium or Ch­ester­field’s old ground, Sal­ter­gate. In the re­serves at Shrews­bury, we seemed to play them five or six times a sea­son.

Wal­sall was a new ground and Sal­ter­gate was fall­ing apart, but I just never en­joyed play­ing ei­ther of them.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT:

Bury’s Darren Bul­lock. I re­mem­ber them kick­ing off and, within about ten sec­onds, he’d taken ev­ery­thing out of me.

Brent­ford man­ager Ray Lew­ing­ton and coach Terry Bul­li­vant were laugh­ing. They knew he would do me, but they didn’t think it would be that quick!

As a Shrews­bury player, I also had to man-mark Steve McMa­hon when he was player-man­ager at Swin­don Town.

At half-time he said, ‘You might as well come in our dress­ing room, you’ve fol­lowed me all game’.

We beat them 1-0, and that was the sea­son (1995-96) they won the Sec­ond Divi­sion ti­tle. Years later, he signed me on loan at Black­pool.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO

I loved play­ing at For­est’s City Ground.

Paul Ger­rard and I signed when we were in the bot­tom three in 2003-04, but it was still sell­ing out. We beat some good sides and stayed up. See­ing the Euro­pean Cups there was pretty im­pres­sive, too. I also loved play­ing at Brent­ford’s Grif­fin Park.

AM­BI­TION

My am­bi­tions are to stay healthy and to see my daugh­ter, Ava Dar­cie, who was two in Fe­bru­ary, grow up and be happy.

PICTURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

Best team-mate: Gavin Ma­hon ROCKET: Paul Evans was known for his fierce shot at Brent­ford Funniest player: Kyle Nix Tough­est place to go: The Bescot

Tough­est op­po­nent: Darren Bul­lock Favourite ground: For­est’s City Ground

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