Steve Evans’ refusal to give up on his job as Leeds United’s head coach has manifested itself in a scouting trip across three countries. He travelled to Scotland last week, France over the weekend and drove to the south of England on Monday for the second leg of Brighton’s play-off semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday.
Yesterday evening Evans was at the KC Stadium to watch the conclusion of Hull City’s play-off with Derby County. It is not quite clear who will benefit from the miles he is covering or whether, in the context of fighting for his job at Elland Road, he is wasting his time but Evans has taken the view that it is better to keep busy than sit around idly, waiting for his phone to ring.
His hope is that a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting with United owner Massimo Cellino, will materialise before his week is out. Cellino called a meeting of Leeds’ board of directors for today to discuss, in his words, the “plan for next season” and Evans expects his job to be on the agenda.
The former Rotherham United manager has been looking for a decision on his contract for the past month but Cellino is leaving him hanging while he considers his next move. Amid the silence, Evans is attempting to plan for pre-season and beyond, knowing all the while that he might be replaced shortly.
“I’ve been aware that this board meeting is coming up and my understanding is that my job will be one of the things they’re discussing there,” he said.
“Obviously I could sit around doing nothing while I wait for an answer but I’m very conscious of the fact that if the answer I get is ‘yes’ (that Evans’ deal will be extended) then I’ll be expected to put plans into place there and then.
“I’ve got my ideas for pre-season and I’ve been getting to as many games as I can, looking at players and seeing if there’s anything out there that we might be able to take advantage of. If you look at the teams in the play-offs, if they go up then some of their players might be told to move on but they’d be wanted by plenty of managers in the Championship. I’m keeping myself on top of all that.
“People keep saying ‘why don’t you go and speak to other clubs who want you?’ To be honest, if I hadn’t taken Leeds United to heart then I would. But I’ve said to my people, the guys who advise me, that I’m not prepared to do that until I get an answer from Mr Cellino. I’ll stick by that.”
Evans’ contract, signed by him in October, runs to June 30. Cellino said after the end of this season that he would not rush into appointing a replacement but his refusal to publicly back Evans, beyond saying that the 53-year-old “did the job he was taken on for”, has fuelled the feeling that Evans is effectively at the end of his tenure after 38 games in charge.
United finished 13th in the Championship under him having sat in 18th when his predecessor, Uwe Rosler, was sacked. The club were never seriously in the running for the play-offs and finished 15 points behind sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday.
Evans, who saw Wednesday reach the play-off final at Brighton’s expense on Monday night, said: “As a club we have to be involved at this stage. If we’re not winning automatic promotion then we should be in the play-offs. Our season should be going right through until the end of May.
“Leeds United have got to start delivering that. I think there’s a feeling amongst the fans that they’re entitled to at least the play-offs now. They’ve stuck with this club through a lot of disappointing years and now they want something in return.
“Whoever is head coach next season, the pressure will be immmense. Between the season ticket offer and the investment I expect to see from the owner, next season is stacked on reaching the play-offs. I still maintain that I’m the man to do it.”