Steve Evans was centre of attention for all of a week at Leeds United and the club’s head coach is already on the periphery of events beyond his control.
Evans promised to keep himself “100 per cent” away from off-field issues at Elland Road and those issues have multiplied after a weekend in which Massimo Cellino appeared to clear the way for a third takeover in three years.
The subject of Cellino’s future after 18 months as owner will become all-consuming in the weeks ahead – in part because of the Football League disqualification which hangs over him – but Evans retains control of a side of United which is no less important in the short-term.
The 53-year-old insisted when he replaced Uwe Rosler as head coach that relegation would not trouble Leeds this season but his tune changed after Blackburn Rovers wrecked his first home game in charge last Thursday.
Two goals inside six minutes – the first conceded after just 17 seconds – compounded league form which was inspiring no confidence prior to Evans’ arrival. United fell to 19th place in the Championship after a round of matches on Saturday.
The Scot made no secret of his concern at the end of the Blackburn result, admitting that “five or six” new players were needed to bring his team up to Championship standards. He does not expect to secure all of them before the end of the emergency loan window, however, and is not certain of signing any before tomorrow’s clash with Cardiff City.
Evans said: “We’ve got some good players but I’ve said to them, the minimum we demand is 11 or 14 players who come into the dressing room afterwards and have given absolutely everything for the cause.
“I didn’t really see that in the first half (against Blackburn) if I’m being honest.
“I saw people shy away from the ball, people shy away from making positive runs, from defensively doing their job. That’s when people talk about being brave.
“I don’t think we’ll have five or six new players by Tuesday and I don’t think we’ll have five or six in this window.
“The window in January will be a massive window but before then there’s lot of points at stake.
“Maybe two or three before the (loan) window closes might take us from where we are to suddenly being a very good side. But to go where we want to go, we have to be much better in a lot of areas.”
Evans will be forced into two changes tomorrow but might well make more.
Captain Sol Bamba was on the verge of a one-match ban for several weeks and finally picked up his fifth booking of the season against Blackburn. Giuseppe Bellusci or Scott Wootton will replace him.
Tom Adeyemi joined Leeds on a season-long loan from Cardiff in July and the terms of his deal prevent him from playing against his parent club.
United, however, are without a victory in six matches and are failing to average a point a game. Their winless run at home stands at 12 consecutive games and they have scored once from open play since the middle of September.
“We’re capable of getting a result or two with the squad we have but if we’re looking at it, so many people have to give us more,” Evans said.
“There’s no-one in British football who didn’t think Chris Wood was a fantastic signing for the football club.
“The big fella needs to give us a lot more than he’s doing. Our captain (Bamba) needs to give us a lot more and I thought he did in the second half against Blackburn. All round that pitch, if you’ve got younger players their form will dip and come up.
“You’re looking for your experienced senior players to give more. When you’re way short in the Championship, you’re not going to win games.
“We’ve got some young players and if there’s a criticism of them it’s that the majority are very quiet.
“They struggle to say good morning to their mate. When you play for a club like this you need to be braver and you need to have a voice.”
Evans came close to securing a goalkeeper on loan last week as competition for an under-pressure Marco Silvestri but the deal fell through due to fitness issues.
“The manager I spoke to told me his other goalkeeper is about two or three weeks away,” Evans said.
“In two or three weeks there might be an option with one of his goalkeepers but we might pursue a different route now.”
Leeds are entering a critical week in which Saturday’s derby at Huddersfield Town looks like a must-win fixture, or unquestionably a fixture that Evans’ side cannot afford to lose.
Evans, however, is adamant that the campaign is not a write-off, saying: “We can still have a good season. We all know it’s the tightest of fine lines.
“From our point of view the objective is still to get into the top half of the table in December. Then we can look realistically at whether we can strive for anything more.
“We need to improve, we need to get better and individuals need to step up and deliver performances which say they should be playing for Leeds United.
“When you play as well as we did at Fulham and Bolton, you should come and embrace playing at Elland Road. If one or two people can’t play on this stage then it means they can’t play in 50 per cent of our games – which would mean they’re going to become history.”