Steve Evans admitted he was resigned to chasing a top-10 finish but said that position would be a bonus for Leeds United after a season in which the club have “never really looked like a promotion team.”
Evans said he was still looking to force clubs above Leeds to deal with “squeaky bum time” as the Championship promotion chase edged towards the run-in but conceded for the first time that Leeds had little chance of bridging a 12-point gap to the play-offs.
The club will reach the 30-game mark at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, a side who last lost a league game in November, and Evans said United were “building for next season” with the January transfer window closed.
Evans took charge as head coach from Uwe Rosler in October with Leeds 18th in the table. The club have lost only five times in his 20 matches in charge but hold 15th place, the same position United have occupied at the end of the past two campaigns.
Rosler set out this season with the intention of finishing in the top 10 and was widely criticised shortly before his sacking for saying that promotion was not on the agenda this season.
Evans wanted to mount a challenge for a play-off place but was philosophical about the current state of the division, saying: “We can certainly finish in the top 10. I remember recalling (at the start of the season) that that was the objective for the club - to finish in the top 10.
“They were going to be more likely to finish in the bottom five but the same squad, with the three additions we’ve made, are very capable of finishing top 10 now.
“That would definitely be something to build on because we’ve never really looked like a promotion team at any stage, in terms of where we are in the table. It’s our job to get in there and see if clubs can handle squeaky-bum time when we get to April.”
Evans, who has a 12-month rolling contract at Elland Road, was given the target of guiding Leeds away from relegation when he replaced Rosler but said he was reluctant to see the campaign peter out.
The 53-year-old told the YEP yesterday that he would resign from his post if United failed to mount a serious promotion challenge next season
“I want to win games,” he said. “We’re building for next season but I’ve never been a manager who goes into a game and says ‘we’ll play five kids and accept that we’ll probably get beat.’ We’re Leeds United and we have to try and win every match.
“We were always building for next season when I came in. The immediate objective set was that I was to give (owner Massimo Cellino) no sleepless nights about relegation. But in football you can always dream. We need to be able to dream and we need to think that if we get a result tomorrow, we can have a look above us again.”