HEAD coach Steve Evans hopes to unearth hidden gems from within at Leeds United, insisting he took Alex Mowatt “out of the cupboard” and hoping other players will follow.
Mowatt was Leeds’ player of the year with nine goals last season but the midfielder had looked a shadow of his former self during United’s first three months of the current campaign.
In the eyes of Evans, the midfielder was “in the cupboard” upon his appointment as head coach but the 20-year-old’s talents are now back on full display with 25-yard strikes against Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town particularly eyecatching.
And while Evans is continuing his search for new recruits at Elland Road, and he has high hopes that he can uncover further jewels from within, with the Glaswegian having particularly high hopes for Casper Sloth, Tommaso Bianchi and Jordan Botaka.
In United’s head coach’s eyes – there are more gems in the cupboards that he has yet to discover.
“We have got some very talented boys here,” said Evans.
“When I was at Rotherham I found a young lad called Ben Pringle in the cupboard as he wasn’t playing in the first team.
“He was a terrific talent and still is a terrific talent.
“And I have found some players in the cupboard here.
“Alex Mowatt was partly in the cupboard wasn’t he because he was terrific last year and I want to see what Bianchi can bring to the party, I want to see what Casper Sloth can bring to the party, I want to see what Botaka can bring to the party.
“If they are not going to bring things to the party then take your party hat off and go somewhere else.
“But I look at the difference that Mirco Antenucci has suddenly found.
“He was in the cupboard wasn’t he? He was an afterthought when I came in but I want every player to drive through those training ground gates and believe they have got a chance of playing.
“And the only way they can do that is by producing performances. They know that when it comes to team selection they have got the best gaffer in the world here because Sol Bamba got left out at Huddersfield.
“Because it was right to Bellusci and Cooper because they were outstanding in the game before.
“For Leeds United fans, I think they would want a head coach or a manager to pick the team on that basis and I don’t think they would want me to count on reputation. We all have favourites but you want it to be based on performance.”
United’s squad are now in the middle of a two-week international break in which individuals have ample opportunity to impress the head coach who unusually took his side to a friendly at Wycombe Wanderers last night, which Leeds won 2-0.
Unlike previous regimes, it’s been business as usual during the international break and Evans is full of praise for his players’ response.
Evans admitted: “You can imagine the looks I got when I first told them that we were coming in every day and they have been in every day. And full credit to them. And I think some of them are starting to show the benefit from it. They have worked really hard and it’s about working smart, working sharp and sharpening themselves up.
“I have thought long and hard about the international breaks and I think it is a real opportunity; not to come in and run players and slog them because those days are gone because the fitness levels should be there.
“But we are using it as working time and hopefully smart time. After the international break – three or four games after – that’s when you know if you’ve got it right or not.”