STEVE EVANS accused Leeds United’s players of allowing off-field issues to distract them and ordered his squad to ignore the prospect of another takeover as they looked to halt a sorry run of form at home to Championship rivals Cardiff City tonight.
Evans admitted he was in the dark about the mooted sale of Leeds by Cellino to supporters group Leeds Fans United but said the Italian remained “proactive” at Elland Road, despite clear indications that he is ready to quit as owner.
Cellino agreed in principle to sell his majority stake to Leeds Fans United (LFU) on Friday and the group are now seeking a period of exclusivity in which to secure cash for a multi-million pound buy-out and complete an unlikely takeover.
Head coach Evans insisted he and Cellino had not discussed the proposal, despite speaking “every day” since the agreement was publicised, and he sought to distance himself from the subject of ownership after a sequence of six league games without a win.
The United boss said: “I think too many (players) think too much about what’s going on off the pitch. They aren’t concentrating on what’s happening on it.
“We just focus on the grass and at the moment, if we’re being honest, it’s the grass that’s letting us down. There would be less heat and less pressure on everyone if the results were right.
That’s what we need to keep our concentration on.”
Leeds are 19th in the Championship ahead of Cardiff’s visit to Elland Road and Cellino came in for abuse from a crowd of 19,000 during last week’s 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
Cellino, who has spent the past few days in London, announced yesterday that he would no longer be attending United’s games in light of the reaction of the supporters towards him.
“It pains me to make this decision as I have put my heart and soul into this club,” Cellino said.
“What I was subjected to at the Blackburn game left me feeling like I had no other option but to take a step away.
“After the time, effort and emotion I have given to the club to try and enable us to move forward, it hurt me a lot to hear the fans singing what they did on Thursday night.
“The fans made it clear they believe I am no longer the best person for this job, and for the first time I am starting to think that they may be correct.”
Evans fixed his attention on tonight’s match, saying: “I’ve always said my job is not to get involved in any way, shape or form with what happens off the pitch.
“It doesn’t bring any uncertainty to me or the players. We’re here until somebody tells us any different - whether it’s Mr Cellino or whether it’s supporters. There’s a lot of water that has to flow under the bridge before that happens and we can only affect Cardiff City.”
Asked if he thought Cellino - currently under threat of Football League disqualification - sounded resigned to selling the club, Evans said: “I don’t know what an owner on the way out sounds like because I’ve not had one.
“He was still proactively talking to me. I was on the telephone to him until late (on Sunday) night. We were talking about player recruitment. His message to me on day one was ‘don’t get distracted by anything else.’ Not by him, not by anyone else.
“He wants his team to win and he’s probably looking at our squad and realising I need some help.The off the field matters, I 100 per cent don’t ask him or talk to him about it because I don’t want to get involved.”
Despite the uncertainty, Cellino is set to back Evans with the loan signing of midfielder Liam Bridcutt from Sunderland.
Evans, who replaced Uwe Rosler at Leeds two weeks ago, was again critical of his existing squad, saying: “The fans are knowledgeable enough to know that there’s not a player in the dressing room who Steve Evans has signed.
“It would have been different players here if I’d been here in the summer.”
Evans also queried the character of his players.
“There’s some but there’s not enough,” he said. “I’d be telling a lie if I said that all the players in this squad fit playing for Leeds United in the Championship.”