Jordan Botaka revealed how a frank exchange with Steve Evans helped him back into the frame at Leeds United and said the club’s squad were anxious for a decision on Evans’ future as head coach after a 2-2 draw with Hull City.
Botaka came off the bench to set up a late Stuart Dallas equaliser on Saturday and admitted he had driven himself to “prove Evans wrong” after United’s boss aimed fierce criticism at him earlier in the season.
Evans used Botaka – a largely unheralded signing from Excelsior last summer – infrequently in his first few months as head coach and was scathing about the winger after an FA Cup defeat to Watford in February.
Evans took issue with Botaka’s attitude by saying the 22-year-old had been “very fortunate to be on the pitch” at Vicarage Road and only appeared as a substitute because Leeds “didn’t have any other options for the bench.”
Botaka, however, made a strong impact in as a substitute in last week’s win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Evans threw him on as a half-time replacement for Lee Erwin at Hull with Leeds trailing 2-1. A piece of skill by Botaka on 88 minutes gave Dallas the chance to earn United a point against a Hull side who have qualified for the Championship play-offs.
Botaka said: “He (Evans) was very critical. Everyone has his opinion and he had his for me. It was up to me to prove him wrong.
“I’m honest with you – it was very difficult for me to accept the fact that I wasn’t even near the squad and not even on the bench.
“I told him as well. We are men, we face each other and I told him what I thought of the fact that I wasn’t playing. I told him in his face and he told me in my face what he thought about me. And we moved on from that moment.
“Here I got 45 minutes and I gave one assist for 2-2 so I’m happy for the moment. I thank God for this moment because without him I couldn’t go through it.”
Evans admitted at the end of Saturday’s match that he had previously held doubts about Botaka’s commitment but the winger could be given a start in Leeds’ final home game against Charlton Athletic this weekend on the strength of his last two appearances.
“He’s quickly got himself to the level where he’s right to start a game,” Evans said.
“He was so far from the team and he openly admits that his concentration and his willingness to work hard in training wasn’t there.
“But we said to him ‘you’ll get a chance if you show that spark.’”
Botaka is under contract for another 12 months at Elland Road but Evans could potentially be two games away from the end of his tenure with United owner Massimo Cellino delaying an announcement about his future.
Botaka said: “No-one knows what’s going to happen and as a player you want to know.
“You want to know how next season is going to be like and who we are working with.
“For the moment it’s very difficult to say because everything can happen.
“I just hope something is going to happen that is best for the club and for the team as well.
“It’s really not up to me to say if (Evans) is going to stay or not but he did what he had to do. We stayed in the Championship.
“That was his task and he did it so we will see for next season.”
Leeds appeared to be heading for defeat at the KC Stadium after Hull responded to an early Chris Wood goal with two efforts in first half injury-time.
Wood missed a penalty shortly after the interval but Dallas buried a deadly strike from 20 yards after Botaka cut in off the right wing and created space on the edge of Hull’s box.
“I think that’s one of my qualities – to get at people,” Botaka said.
“When you have two or three defenders who are defending me, there will be someone else free.
“I saw Stuart Dallas, I gave it to him and he put it behind the keeper.”