Steve Evans naturally wants his reign as Leeds United boss to last “for years”. He is aware all the same that coaches at Elland Road tend to count in games, and sometimes in single figures.
Breaking that mould is as much about the attitude of owner Massimo Cellino as it is about the football but Evans’ strategy as Cellino’s latest head coach will be to aim for “stepping stones” and at least ensure that he can count himself unlucky if the dreaded phone call comes.
Wednesday night away at Fulham was a good start for the Scot. Fulham hung on for a 1-1 draw but Leeds under Evans did not cause Cellino the “worry and fear” which the Italian felt towards the end of Uwe Rosler’s short tenure. Evans said Cellino was “delighted” with the nature of the match, if not the result.
Leeds go to Bolton today without a victory in four games. Evans was as pleased as Cellino with the performance at Fulham but philosophical too.
“I think a lot of the players, looking at them in the dressing room, had a little feeling like they had won,” Evans said. “They didn’t and the reality is you sit them down and say ‘we’ve done nothing here. We’ve come and drawn with Fulham.’
“Leeds should be going to Fulham and winning. That’s not being disrespectful to any club. We need to get that winning feeling. But you couldn’t fail to be pleased. There were some super performances.”
Evans is trusting in the idea – and a logical one it is – that results will protect his job as they often did at Rotherham United and Crawley Town. He claimed on Wednesday that Cellino “doesn’t want to be changing coaches”, albeit while conceding that some outside the club would find that hard to believe.
“I want to be here for years,” Evans said. “What my agenda is might not be the agenda of the powers that be but I want to take Leeds United back to the minimum level where the club should play.
“I want to be the guy who takes them to the Premier League and makes them successful there.
“But it really is about stepping stones, The first thing we have to do is win points so let’s set ourselves some in-between targets.
“Winning a game, because the winning feeling’s not been here for a while. Let’s bounce into the top half of the table. Let’s have someone looking at Leeds coming like a difficult game. Let’s get Elland Road into a place where everyone fears going. No-one fears going. It’s seven months since the supporters saw their team win there.
“Let’s set initial benchmarks and if I get to those benchmarks I’ll be manager. I have to believe that. I do believe that. If I wake up one morning and I’m told I’m not manager but I’ve delivered things along the lines of meeting those targets then I’ve been unlucky.”
Evans wants to help himself by making additions to his squad before the emergency loan window closes next month. He admitted that Leeds were short of strikers and plans to bring Lee Erwin back from Bury when his 28-day loan ends. United looked at temporary forwards during Rosler’s tenure but opted against signing any. While Cellino was keen on Norwich City’s Kyle Lafferty, Rosler turned that option down.
Evans and Cellino spoke at length on Thursday about his squad. “The president is keen first and foremost for us to fully assess what we have,” Evans said. “Those assessment are quickly taking place so he has a few thoughts from me but he said ‘let’s get through Bolton first’ because we’re not a club who are going to be bringing players in tomorrow, unless it’s an emergency. But we are going to try to do one or two things.
“There are one or two bits I’d like to do.
“He’s keen for me to explore those so there have been some phone calls made. Do we need another striker? We maybe do. But there might be some other priorities.”
Cellino remains in the thick of the day-to-day running of Leeds but the Italian is at the mercy of a challenge against another Football League disqualification.
Cellino, who was previously banned from controlling United last season, has until Wednesday to appeal the League’s ruling – a move he is expected to make – but will be forced to quit Elland Road until next June if he fails to overturn his punishment.
The 59-year-old is in breach of the League’s Owners and Directors Test after being found guilty of tax evasion by a court in Sardinia in June.
Evans’ appointment was confirmed on the same afternoon as Cellino’s ban was announced, creating further uncertainty in the wake of another change of head coach.
Evans said he had not discussed the situation further with Cellino, insisting: “People from afar will think ‘why not?’ but in simple terms it’s got nothing to do with me.
“One thing I’ve said is that when you spend time with the president (Cellino), he’s a fighter and a tenacious man so he’ll take that battle wherever he thinks it needs to go.
“If he’s got something to say then he’ll tell me. Then I’ll form an opinion and tell you what I think.”