HEAD coach Steve Evans says Leeds United are unquestionably better than their recent position but has warned only hard graft and dedication will take the Whites into the Championship’s top half.
Back to back victories against Cardiff and Huddersfield Town have improved United’s position to 15th with Leeds now six points clear of the dropzone and nine points off the play-offs.
With six of the club’s next seven fixtures coming against teams in the bottom half, Evans will hope to climb into the upper echelons of the division with Leeds back in action a week on Saturday at home to rock-bottom Rotherham United, under the care of former Whites head coach Neil Redfearn.
Instead Evans is United’s latest head coach and one who says Leeds’ latent talent will be wasted without painstaking hard work.
Asked if Leeds were better than a team sat in 17th – a position the Whites had recently been occupying – Evans reasoned: “There’s no question we are better but it doesn’t matter how much talent and ability you have got unless you apply yourself and it applies to every walk of life.
“I say to Nicole and Shannon my two daughters every day –one is at university and one absorbs herself in the horse world – and I say unless you turn up and put everything into that then you will never get what you deserve out.
“So we can have talented players but unless they turn up every day and give it their best then they will never be prepared to win matches in the Championship because it’s fine lines between winning and losing.
“There’s certainly good players at Elland Road but you can have good players and not get it out of them. It’s easy to come in and say ‘I am going to change personnel and I’m going to change style and I’m going to change this’ but the first thing you have to do is come in and have a look at what you’ve got and we’ve taken real care and attention to that.
“We’re quickly realising and it grows on every day that we’ve got some talented boys in this dressing room but talent never wins football matches unless you prepare properly, unless you turn up and give it as much as the people that turn up behind that goal give it.
“They live and breathe it and I think there is ways of working and ways of reminding the players which is coming through.”
United’s head coach is putting his work ethic into practice during the current international break with the Glaswegian arranging a friendly at Wycombe Wanderers on Friday to keep his men on their toes.
“They were told on Friday that they were not going to have a day off in the international break which, as you can imagine to footballers, went down extremely well,” said Evans.
“But I said ‘you can’t be having days off when you are 17th or 18th in the league in the Championship and you play for Leeds United.’ I’m not saying every player in the Championship wants to play for Leeds United but I would say more than most.”
Leeds are a team that will now chase a hat-trick of wins a week on Saturday and United’s last two successes have been particularly important to Evans.
The triumphs against Cardiff and Huddersfield provided the perfect response to Thursday night’s 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers in which Leeds went 1-0 down after 17 seconds. Evans admitted: “I would describe the Blackburn game and the first 15 minutes as the worst of my career. I know a young lady, Skye Thompson, had just lost her life and her family were there and I’ve seen them in the tunnel area et cetera at Elland Road and that hurt for a couple of days. The result hurt me badly that they couldn’t commiserate her passing, I don’t know what the right words are.
“They came to share it with the Leeds United family and I felt very sore about that because I had that team out, whether I had been in a day or not.
“I said to the players before the Cardiff game, ‘let’s go and get back-to-back wins and then I can go and give that young lady and her family a special mention.’ Those two games are for that young lady and her family.”