STEVE EVANS has fired a broadside in the direction of Leeds United’s fringe players – and insists that they need to do better if they are to have a chance of featuring in the club’s final month of Championship action.
The United head coach, whose side visit league leaders Burnley this lunch-time, took a watching brief in the under-21s’ Professional Development League 2 fixture against Cardiff City on Wednesday night – and was not overly impressed by what he saw.
On a night when United’s supporting cast were handed a rare chance to impress at Elland Road, many fluffed their lines in a disappointing 3-1 home loss to Cardiff City, which abruptly ended a four-match unbeaten run – with the Welsh visitors producing a dominant performance.
The side included the likes of Jordan Botaka, Casper Sloth, Kalvin Phillips and Lee Erwin along with a number of aspiring youngsters yet to make their first-team bow.
Few pushed their causes forward ahead of possible involvement on the bench at Turf Moor on Saturday, with Evans frank in his views of what he saw.
The Scot said: “Some of them have to do a lot better.
“The training sessions are fine and the under-21s (games) are a little bit of a step-up from the training sessions, although it is still a little bit away from the first team.
“There were a number of supporters at the under-21s game (on Wednesday night) and did anyone jump out on that stage at Elland Road to say: ‘play me at Burnley?’ We can all answer that privately..”
Danish international Sloth, in particular, has endured a nightmare time at Elland Road and has yet to feature this term.
The former Aarhus man, 24, bought for an undisclosed six-figure fee believed to be in the region of £500,000 in the summer of 2014, last played in the first-team just under 14 months ago in a 2-0 loss at Brighton in February 2015.
While Evans has no gripe with his attitude, he says that the Dane has not exactly been hammering down the door to get back involved in the first-team by way of his performances.
Evans said: “Casper is a real fantastic young man and a good professional. (But) he needs to do more to be in the team, considering his competition area of the pitch that he plays in.
“Paul Raynor looked at the under-21s game with a real in-depth analysis to have a brief of who can step in with us on Saturday and everyone who was at the game will have seen the same as what we watched..”
One player tipped in the past to possibly be involved before the end of the season and sample the first-team scene has been promising young Republic of Ireland striker Eoghan Stokes.
But Evans says that he needs to bolster his fitness levels if he is to have a chance of featuring before the end of the season – with United pulling down the curtain on another disappointing campaign at Simon Grayson’s Preston North End on May 7.
On the situation with Stokes, he added: “He is a young man who we like and is talented.
“But being substitute for the under-21s (on Wednesday) tells you he is a country distance away from the first team.
“He needs to get fit first and covering more ninety minutes. You don’t need to be good on time to realise that the season is quickly coming to an end.
“But he is a young man that we like who is up there with the Peacock-Farrells and the Coyles and we like him.”