STEVE Evans says Neil Warnock has restored spirit to his former Rotherham United side whose downfall the Glaswegian is now plotting on Saturday afternoon.
Evans spent three-and-a-half years at Rotherham between April 2012 and September 2015 with Evans and assistant Paul Raynor taking the Millers from League Two to the Championship.
Yet the club’s second tier status looked in grave danger at the end of February following seven successive games without victory, a run which also included five defeats. Chairman Tony Stewart then sacked head coach Neil Redfearn – who Evans himself succeeded at Leeds – and the appointment of another ex-Whites boss in Warnock has led to a dramatic change of fortunes for United who have now won four out of their last five league games.
Evans has hailed his former club’s run as “promotion form” yet is now desperate to throw a spanner in the works of Rotherham’s survival bid by sealing a Whites away win which is much-needed in the first fixture since the desperate 4-1 loss at home to Huddersfield Town.
Yet Evans admits he will never forget his two promotions and good times with the Millers – and neither is there any questioning the esteem in which he holds his opposite number.
Evans only hopes Warnock is wrong in his judgement that Saturday will see both head coaches receiving a similar level of “pelters” from their opposing side’s fans.
“I’ve got a good relationship with Neil,” said Evans.
“I read his comments during the week where he said I would probably get the same type of applause that he would get. Well okay, that’s Neil’s version.
“But what I would say is that he has always been fantastic to me. In my career I have phoned him asked, begged and borrowed players and he was always forthcoming. If he could help me he would help me and we have met many times on our journey.
“He’s brought not only fantastic performances from that group of players but he’s brought back a spirit that was there prior to us leaving.
“Players like Camp, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Smalling, Newell, Derbyshire and Ward, they are fantastic players.
“And if ever they are doubted in the Championship for ability which they are not in my eyes then they make up for it because they have got hearts and energies to play football that I have not had at many places.”
Evans is now six months into his tenure at Leeds and the 53-year-old will become the club’s longest serving head coach under Massimo Cellino next month.
The Scot desperately hopes his United adventure is only just beginning but admits he will take time out at the New York Stadium on Saturday to thank the fans that used to support him.
Evans reflected: “I had three-and-a-half years of the most wonderful times that any manager could wish to have, supported by not only great staff and a great chairman but by magnificent players.
“The supporters were there in days that didn’t look as if we were going to get promoted from League Two and we did and in League One, especially when 2-0 down at Wembley it looked a bit daunting, but we delivered and it will be an opportunity for myself and Paul Raynor just for a brief moment to open our hearts and applaud the Rotherham people who were fantastic to us as individuals.
“If I am back in South Yorkshire I still get treated with the utmost respect by everyone there.
“I arrive as the very proud manager of Leeds United and I want to leave on the team coach with three points but at five to three or thereabouts I will show my recognition to them. They are wonderful people.”
Those people now have every reason to expect another season in the Championship – and Evans is in no doubt as to the size of the task facing his men this weekend.
The Scot added: “Rotherham United have recently beaten Ipswich away, beaten Sheffield Wednesday away, beaten Middlesbrough at home and drew with Derby after being 3-0 down.
“I think they have taken 15 or 16 points out of about 18 and it’s just absolutely promotion form stamped all over it.
“They know they have had to deliver that but they will deliver it and win, lose or draw on Saturday they won’t get too down and they won’t get too up.
“Neil will keep it on an even keel for them on Tuesday.
“But that’s enough about them. If we go and we produce the type of performance that we are capable of as individuals then we give ourselves a chance of winning a match that we want to be winning.”