Steve Evans said he was “focusing on preparing the team for Rotherham” last night amid reports that Leeds United are planning to replace him as head coach before the start of next season.
Evans reported to Thorp Arch as usual yesterday (March 21) morning and said he would treat speculation about his future with “the contempt it deserves”, despite suggestions that Massimo Cellino is poised to change first-team boss seventh time in his two-year reign as owner of Leeds.
A report in the Daily Mail on Tuesday claimed the Italian was already moving to find a replacement for Evans following Saturday’s 4-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town at Elland Road. Evans has a contract to the end of this season and expected to receive an extension for the 2016-17 term once Leeds were mathematically safe from relegation in the Championship but his future has been in doubt ever since a 4-0 thrashing at Brighton last month.
Cellino backed Evans in the aftermath of that result but criticised him for speaking too openly in the media.
The former Cagliari owner was present at Saturday’s loss to Huddersfield and is understood to have made it clear to those around him that a change of head coach was planned.
Evans could still see out the final nine games of this term, however, and he is continuing to prepare for Leeds’ trip to his former club Rotherham United on April 2. Cellino is currently in Miami.
Asked to respond to the claims about his imminent departure, Evans said: “I treat stories like that with the contempt they deserve. My only focus is on preparing the team for Rotherham.”
United have not responded to a request for comment about Evans’ future.
The 53-year-old Scot was appointed by Cellino in October after United’s chairman dispensed with Uwe Rosler after only 12 games in charge.
Cellino said he had brought in a “fighter” in Evans to replace a “gentleman” in Rosler with Leeds 18th in the Championship table.
Speaking at the time, Cellino – who complimented Evans in bizarre fashion by calling him a “motherf*****” – said: “Steve Evans, he has aggression and he will make this team fight. If you don’t fight you don’t expect to win anything. In too many games and in too many draws we didn’t try to win.”
Evans is four games away from becoming the longest-serving head coach under Cellino at Leeds, a fact which underlines the instability of the past two years. Evans has handled 29 competitive games, registering 11 wins and nine defeats.
Cellino has appointed a new head coach in each of his previous two summers at Elland Road, parting company with Brian McDermott in 2014 and ending Redfearn’s short reign at the end of last season after returning from a Football League ownership ban.
Evans was asked about his prospects after Saturday’s defeat to Huddersfield but said: “I’ve got no reason to ask for guidance. When you win games, if you ask a question then people would always speak positively. If you lose a game, people would always be negative. You have to take it from the remit when you came in as head coach and that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to make sure this club is a Championship club going forward and then I’ll try to build something, to put a side in place which challenges.
“It’s easy to talk, it’s harder to deliver, but as I’ve said many times I’ve got a track record which says I deliver.
“Unless you tell me differently or the league table is different, I don’t think we’re mathematically safe in the Championship. I need to deliver the remit the president gave me and I’ve not done that yet. When you lose 4-1, it’s not for me to be talking about that (his future).”
Cellino remains at risk of a second Football League disqualification having appealed against a 223-day ban imposed on him by the governing body on the same day as Evans’ appointment as head coach in October.
The 59-year-old is contesting that penalty – imposed as a result of his conviction for tax evasion in Italy last June – through both the Football League’s appeals mechanism and the Football Association’s Rule K arbitration process.
The Football League was asked to clarify the status of Cellino’s appeal but did not respond.