Leeds United: Evans ready for career “pinnacle”

Leeds United head coach Steve Evans
Leeds United head coach Steve Evans
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Steve Evans is ready for what he called the “pinnacle” of his career tonight – and desperate to ensure that his first home game as Leeds United head coach goes to plan.

The 52-year-old said the experience of managing Leeds at Elland Road would eclipse the pride he felt during Rotherham United’s League One play-off victory at Wembley last season, describing United as a “completely different animal”.

Evans, however, focused attention on tonight’s opponents Blackburn Rovers and stressed the importance of drawing a line under a severe loss of form at Elland Road in which Leeds have gone without a home win since March.

The United boss, who replaced Uwe Rosler as head coach last week, said his players were “hurting” over that record but insisted he was confident that a change from “containment play” under Rosler would help Leeds to break the drought.

“I’m massively excited,” Evans said. “Without a doubt it’s the pinnacle for me.

“I didn’t think I could be any more proud than driving into Wembley for a play-off final and driving out of Wembley having been successful but I have to accept that Leeds United is a completely different animal altogether.

“Hopefully it’ll be remembered for all the right reasons. For any club at any level, you can’t be going over seven months without winning at home. It’s a staggering statistic. It’s right to say it’s a shocking statistic. We need to sort it.

“The players are hurting at that record. Let’s not say any different.

“They sit and look at you in one-on-one chats and they know.

“It’ll come down to a combination of everything but ultimately if you’re good enough as a team then you don’t not win a home game for seven months.”

Evans reverted to a two-man attack after taking charge ahead of last week’s games at Fulham and Bolton Wanderers and the Scot said he would look for “more quality” up front after Bolton held on with 10 men to claim a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

“More quality in the final third is needed. There’s no doubt about that,” Evans said.

“There are probably too many times where the players have been encouraged and coached in the early part of the season to put the ball in an area as opposed to picking someone out.

“We’ve been working on attention to detail but it won’t be sorted in two or three sessions. It’ll be sorted over a period of time.

“I think the players are happier with how we’re playing. Rather than play a containment game, which is what’s been happening since the start of the season, we’re going to play attacking football.

“As a coach you can sit there and say it and then implement something totally different. We’ve sat here and said it and we’re trying to implement it. It’ll give the players a licence to be very creative.”

Evans’ reign has started with two draws from as many matches, despite the Scot claiming that his side deserved to take six points from visits to Fulham and Bolton.

Asked if a win tonight was important for him personally, Evans – Massimo Cellino’s sixth first-team boss in 18 months –said: “One hundred percent.

“Part of the reason why I was so frustrated on Saturday evening was because four points out of six from two away games would have been a wonderful start. And we know it should have been six.

“If we can get three points against Blackburn then three points against Cardiff (next Tuesday) turns it from a good start to an outstanding start. It’s been plus, plus, plus so far but we need to do the hardest part which is winning games.”

Blackburn lost a fiercely-contested local derby against Burnley at Ewood Park on Saturday and are one position and one point below Leeds in the bottom half of the Championship.

Striker Jordan Rhodes is again carrying Rovers with regular goals and Evans said: “They have quite a sensational striker.

“I have to be careful because last time I talked about Jordan Rhodes I was talking about how much money he earned and I got in trouble with his manager. But he’s an outstanding talent who should be playing in the Premier League.”