Leeds United: Evans defends his Leeds United record

STEVE Evans has vehemently defended his position as head coach of Leeds United, suggesting the Whites could have been in a relegation dogfight without his three key signings.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2016, 5:00 am
Steve Evans

STEVE Evans has vehemently defended his position as head coach of Leeds United, suggesting the Whites could have been in a relegation dogfight without his three key signings.

The Scot has also asked the club’s fans to reserve judgement on him until after the summer, declaring: “If I get supported, we will challenge for the Premier League.”

United’s season all but petered out with Saturday’s 1-0 loss in the FA Cup fifth round at Watford, with 17th-placed Leeds 11 points clear of the Championship dropzone but 16 points off the play-offs, ahead of tonight’s hosting of 18th-placed Fulham.

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But Evans has asked fans to question exactly where Leeds would be without the three players he has recruited – Toumani Diagouraga, Liam Bridcutt and Mustapha Carayol.

With Sam Byram sold to West Ham United, Evans had also hoped to bring in further attacking recruits to a side who have now not scored in five hours and 21 minutes of football.

With main striker Chris Wood enduring two spells on the sidelines with hamstring injuries, United have scored just 12 goals in 16 games at Elland Road this season, the second worst home goalscoring record in the Football League. Only League Two’s basement club Dagenham & Redbridge have fared worse. But Evans is confident that he will receive generous backing from chairman Massimo Cellino in

the summer to fix United’s woes and is nonetheless sure the Whites are in a better state now than when Uwe Rosler was sacked in October.

A passionate Evans said: “The one thing that I don’t forget is that when I first accepted the job at Leeds United, I had one remit from the owner - to stay up.

“Because everyone, including a lot of Leeds United supporters who I have known for years, thought they were going down.

“This is a question for the Leeds fans, of which I am one, but I am not answering the question myself as I am not that silly.

“But without Digaouraga, without Bridcutt and without Carayol coming in, do they think we would be a in a relegation fight come the end of the season?

“I have only brought three players in and have they improved us? The answer is by some distance.

“Without Bridcutt and Diagouraga alone, would we have been involved in a relegation fight? And I think the president’s answer is yes because he moved Uwe (Rosler) out, he allowed me to bring them in so he has identified it as well.”

Evans will receive one major boost this evening with the return of star right-back Gaetano Berardi who has recovered from a torn ankle ligament that has sidelined the 27-year-old out since December.

The Swiss international played 45 minutes for United’s under-21s yesterday and will be among tonight’s substitutes with Liam Cooper also ready to return from the dead leg that kept him out of the FA Cup tie at Watford.

Cooper will likely partner Sol Bamba at centre-back with Giuseppe Bellusci beginning a two-match ban having picked up his tenth booking of the season at Vicarage Road.

Carayol is rated “50-50” through injury while Wood will definitely miss out with a fresh hamstring problem as well as a virus.

Frustrating times at Elland Road, but Evans is adamant he will deliver a genuine promotion push next term.

“The Leeds United supporters are phenomenal and they deserve halos, every one of them,” said the head coach.

“Do they think Diagouraga makes us better? Do they think Bridcutt has made us better? And do they like Carayol? I would say they are three of our better players and that’s the standard of player that I am going to be getting in over the summer and making us a real promotion contender.

“If I don’t build a promotion team, and I’m talking top six here, then I won’t be at Leeds and I’ll do that myself.

“I won’t need Mr Cellino to sack me. I’ve got too much pride. So back me and I’ll take you into a promotion place, that’s my belief.

“I think there will be investment by the owner when we go forward into the summer and I can’t tell the Leeds United supporters what to do, I am very humbled to work at Leeds United.

“But I’m saying, if I get supported, I will put on the pitch a squad of men that will challenge for the Premier League.

“If I fail that, I will drive out of Thorp Arch and I will be brokenhearted and I will admit failure. But I don’t fail when I get supported. I work too hard for that.”