Leeds United head coach Steve Evans made a final plea for his job today, vowing to be “sat here drinking champagne” next season if the club decide to retain him as head coach.
Evans said he would mimic the hospitality of Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri who marked his club’s remarkable Premier League title by sharing glasses of champagne with journalists at a press conference this afternoon.
Evans’ promise of a promotion campaign at Elland Road next year came as he waited for owner Massimo Cellino to end speculation about his future and confirm whether Leeds planned to extend the 53-year-old’s short-term contract beyond the end of June.
United’s boss has waited patiently for an answer having failed to receive a guarantee from Cellino during a lengthy meeting in Leeds last Friday.
Despite anticipating further talks with Cellino this week, he admitted today that a final decision was likely to wait until after Leeds’ last game of the season at Preston North End on Saturday, saying Cellino had been engaged abroad “on other business” in the past few days.
Evans, who takes charge of his 38th match this weekend and has held the head coach’s job since October, warned Cellino about the risks of appointing a replacement with no prior experience of the Championship but said he believed the Italian had already made up his mind about whether to change head coach for the seventh time in his two-year tenure as owner.
Evans said: “I went on record last weekend as saying I do believe he knows his decision. The president’s been on other business but that day’s coming closer for all of us. Certainly it won’t be going much beyond the weekend.
“There will come a day where I have to act in the interests of myself and my family. I’m no different to the majority of supporters. We’ve got mortgages, bills and kids to support. It’s not an imminent situation. I don’t need a decision today or tomorrow but a decision does need to be made.
“I have to believe I’ll be here. I’m still continuing with planning for next season and I’ll do that until someone tells me otherwise. I understand that if I’m the chosen one I have to deliver the play-offs if not promotion next season. But if I’m sitting here in year’s time then you’ll be sitting with some champagne, a bit like Leicester were today.”
Leeds have been linked in the past month with former World Cup winner and Italy international Fabio Cannavaro, a one-time Ballon D’Or recipient whose previous coaching jobs have been held in China and the Middle East. Cellino recently denied any approach, however, and sources close to Cannavaro have also distanced him from the role at Elland Road.
Ex-Italy goalkeeper Walter Zenga - briefly boss of Sampdoria last year - was another name to emerge this week but Evans said he had learned to ignore speculation since a 4-0 defeat at Brighton in February cast serious doubt over his future.
“I’ve been getting sacked for three months, haven’t I? It’s different coaches every week,” Evans said. “I’ve been told many times to not believe all that and just deal with the facts. I sit here and I do believe the president wants to take me forward.
“It’s a really tough job being head coach of Leeds United and you have to know the Championship. I believe that if this club are going to get success, we do need stability and we need additional talent so that everyone feels there’s an opportunity to have a great season.
“That was the feeling at Burnley (last summer) and at Middlesbrough. I know in Brighton, very quietly as it was done under Chris (Hughton), that there was a feeling this could be their season.
“You need someone who knows the Championship, which signifies a British coach unless they’re European and have worked over here in the past. But that would only be my opinion, not necessarily the opinion of anyone at Elland Road.”
Asked how some around him were reacting to the delay in clarifying his position, Evans said his family “trust me to take the decision that’s right for the family” but admitted that “people in the game always believe you should know your situation.”
But he insisted he had no complaints about Cellino’s handling of his contract, saying: “People say we’ve had a difficult relationship but we’ve not had a difficult relationship.
“He’s the boss, I’m the head coach but I’m a head coach who’s always picked the team, always decided on players and training. I run the football operation of his business.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect there. That’s why if we sit down and it’s a negative chat for me, Mr Cellino will tell me. By his own admission he’s not told any other head coaches that but he will tell me. I’ll be the first to know either way.”