STEVE EVANS refused to be drawn on renewed criticism from Massimo Cellino today, saying Leeds United’s owner was “entitled to his opinion” and claiming the Italian is continuing to support him in private.
Evans was again forced to field questions about his future as head coach after Cellino used a national newspaper interview to accuse the Scot of “talking too much” and cleared the way for another change of boss by saying he “cannot work with English managers.”
Cellino’s comments, the second of which appears to refer to conventional British managers rather than English bosses specifically, have added further fuel to the expectation that Leeds are set for a new head coach this summer.
Evans became the sixth first-team boss of Cellino’s two-year reign as owner last October and is currently the longest serving head coach under the Italian but Cellino is yet to make any move towards extending the 53-year-old’s short-term deal.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph - and repeating criticism he made of Evans after Leeds lost 4-0 at Brighton in February - Cellino said: “He talks too much. He has to learn to shut his mouth. I’ve told him so many times to stop, you have no idea. But he doesn’t.”
Cellino, who rejected speculation linking the club with former Italy international Fabio Cannavaro, also implied that he would look for a replacement with a desire for less control over club affairs.
“I cannot work with English managers,” Cellino said. “I never want to learn. I give up.
“When am I going to find a manager in England who is actually a coach? They want to control everything. But it’s wrong because when they go you have to start all over again.
“Not everyone is Sir Alex Ferguson. All the other managers want to act like Ferguson but they don’t have the skills so they cause damage.”
Evans delivered on his initial target of ensuring Leeds’ Championship survival on Saturday and, with four games to go, the club could still achieve their highest league finish in five years.
Asked if he thought Cellino’s comments were disrespectful, Evans said: “I don’t think the president would say anything disrespectful to me. I know what he’s told me privately and what he thinks of me as an individual and a head coach.
“I had very positive communications and an exchange of messages with him on Saturday evening and again last night. But one thing with Leeds United is you can’t get away from a daily story.
“I could never tell anyone at this club not to have their own opinions. We all have our opinions. That’s what it is. The president does his job and I have to do mine.”
Evans conceded that Cellino’s comments in public sounded less supportive than their recent discussions but said: “Nothing in football surprises you. What I would say is that when I’ve spoken to him in the last couple of days it’s been totally positive about performances and results.
“The president is entitled to speak his words. I speak passionately about my players, my team and my objectives. That’s what you get.”
Cellino told the Telegraph that Carlo Ancelotti – soon to by Bayern Munich’s new head coach – wanted to take charge of United in the Premier League and claimed he had told Jose Mourinho: “If you had the balls, you would come and manage Leeds.”
Evans said realistic replacements for him were clearly out there but insisted he would have offers from other clubs if Leeds did not extend his contract. Managerless Nottingham Forest are understood to have made their interest in him known already.
Talking ahead of Tuesday night’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Evans said: “There are some wonderful coaches out there. I’m not privy to the president’s opinion on those coaches but what I do know is that he respects me.
“He knows that being head coach at Leeds United is a very difficult job. Everyone has an opinion on Leeds United, more than anywhere else in the league.
“I’ve not seen the article or all the quotes but if Mr Cellino decides it’s time up then it’s time up. History tells you that. But we’re on target to have our highest-placed finish in five years, from a remit of ‘keep us in the division because we may get relegated.’ That would be an overwhelming success.
“But I’d never be aggrieved (if Cellino replaces him). Five or six years ago I may have got upset with things. I’m not saying I wouldn’t shed tears or hurt but there’s a difference.”