Since his arrival, a lot has been said and written about Steve Evans suitability for the Leeds job with criticism of his past indiscretions, style of play and media stunts boxes all well-ticked.

To many, he was just a bit of a class clown, unworthy of the prized role Massimo Cellino has been making an absolute mockery of as he passes it, without any thought, from one random manager to the next depending on mood. The impression many Leeds fans had was of a cringe-worthily outspoken, middle-aged obese man more notable for his sombrero and beachwear stunt at Elland Road last season than anything he’d achieved in football. He wasn’t (and to some, still isn’t) a man befitting the role of Leeds United boss.

That’s not to say the whole fanbase was against him, there was also a sizeable portion of the Leeds faithful who thought it might work, pointing to a CV of reasonable success – albeit at lower levels with smaller clubs – but even they acknowledged this was a very different situation and Evans was yet to experience anything close to the job – and inherent chaos – he was now stepping in to.

Then there was the rest of us, those of us too tired of Cellino’s erratic behaviour to give any real consideration to Evans’ suitability. “In all likelihood” we sighed and collectively reasoned, “he’ll be gone in a month.”

Yet three months on, with Evans having guided Leeds through a tricky and congested December fixture list undefeated (a feat which must surely make him favourite for manager of the month given the circumstances at Elland Road?) I’m starting to wonder whether Cellino has stumbled upon a very clever operator disguised by Evans’ crazy façade.

There were signs of someone with the right ideas from day one. Firstly, he’s a distraction. Not in the “oh my god, is he trying to ruin us?” way Cellino excels in, but in a way that allows him to redirect the attention of all those watching on. He seems to use the media to his own advantage, whether that’s to create something of a siege mentality (like he did with the fixture congestion), in an attempt to make players rethink their futures (as with Byram), or to keep our madcap owner on-side (backing him over Sky) while still reminding Cellino of promises made (January spending). All of it is very deliberate, but Evans wraps it in jokey remarks and (sometimes feigned) outrage to ensure his message gets to the relevant parties with whom he’s undoubtedly playing a bit of internal politics/mind-games, but in a way that keeps the club looking outwardly united as he shifts focus to common enemies.

And what all that (along with what he’s doing on the training pitch) is starting to result in is a Leeds United that look like the Leeds United I want to watch. There’s a determined look to our squad at the minute, borne of the siege mentality Evans has started to create.

We’ve been getting teasing glimpses of it for a while now, but last night against Derby County saw a more aggressive looking Leeds side imposing themselves on, and forcing superior opposition into mistakes. It was a Leeds United side playing with determination and grit at a higher tempo than we’ve seen for far too long, a side whose heads didn’t drop when we went behind, but who collectively rose up and fed off a crowd more than happy to do their part.

Oftentimes, the roar of appreciation for a strong tackle will be indistinguishable from a goal at Elland Road because to fans of Leeds United, the fighting spirit is as necessary for our long-term success as a steady supply of goals.

As it is for players, it’s only right that in the role of Leeds United manager, the fight to prove yourself is ongoing so I’ll refrain from throwaway sentiments that hail Evans as the saviour of our beloved football club. What I will say however, is that while ever Evans can keep the players fighting like they did last night, he’ll have my full support, and no doubt find plenty more alongside me on the Elland Road terraces.

Happy Christmas everyone and all the best for 2016.

On and on…

  • JohnLizardBrain

    Amen. Whatever my doubts about him he’s found a formula that works.

    • leeds Mick

      One up front,home and away? Proven goal scorer left on the bench? If that’s the sign of someone who knows what he’s doing then god help us.

      • Scally Lad

        Spot on, Leeds Mick. We’re in the hands of hopeless strategists. We’ve been lucky. Very lucky.

      • Matthew

        In fairness, Wood is better suited to the lone striker role than Antenucci. He just needs to work on his finishing, and he could score a lot more.

  • Dermot

    Great article. Ever since Evans was the guest on Sky last year as a studio pundit for a Leeds game he has come across as a great LUFC admirer. Now in the biggest job of his life he seems to have the man management skills and footballing nous to be able to take us to a better place.
    Taking Byram off with 2 minutes to go last night, showed good managerial skills – an ovation might be enough to tempt a Leeds lad to stay with this side as opposed to risking Premier League obscurity as a reserve full back somewhere far from home.

  • RoystonLufc

    One thing for sure: we can forget about tactics and formations, we now fight for every loose ball in a way that I haven’t seen for a long time. And for me that’s the difference: suddenly we have regained a fighting spirit.

    Whether this is due to man-management or genuinely down to tactics/formation, maybe we’ll never know. But for my money that spirit is the difference.

    I’d almost forgotten what it was like to see a real, determined, passionate team of players marching on together. Even those who have suffered abuse from our “fans” – Wood and Wootton – are playing like demons. We now have a team that is starting to gel, buoyed with confidence and self-belief.

    All we need now is for our fans to respond in kind, and stop this anti MC nonsense. He might be unorthodox, but he’s finally found (albeit randomly) a manager to take us forward. And the reason for this is that he wasn’t prepared to put up with the dross he’d previously employed. He’s big enough to admit he got it wrong – and that is a special quality in my eyes.

    We’ve notched up a pathetic couple of points in our last two games, but if you look at the circumstances and the teams we were playing, that’s two points gained, not four points lost. But now we need to pummel MK Dons to show that we don’t just come big against the big clubs.


  • Mick444

    Where have you been hiding Mr TSS – missed your words of wisdom. I whole heartedly agree – but lose Byram and Bridcutt in January and even the Big Yin will be at a loss. I live in hope that this will not be the case!

    • Matthew

      My thoughts exactly. The unpredictability of Cellino, will he support the team and strengthen? Or will he do a Bates? If he wants to be here long term and regain the support of his critics, strengthening in the team would go a long way. But only Cellino knows what Cellino will do.

  • FRED

    Those snobby Leeds fans, who thought that Steve Evans was not good enough for Leeds, have been proved wrong and it’s good to see a well-balanced, passionate Coach after the disastrous Rosler.
    However, the main story of this season, has been the poor defence, which seems to have a very costly mistake in it, during nearly every game and that is causing Leeds to have to chase games far too often and is also preventing the team from moving higher in the table.
    Goal scoring has also been a major problem for Leeds and far too many drawn games have been totally wasted opportunities, particularly against struggling teams, who Leeds really should be beating.
    The transfer window can not open fast enough for Steve Evans to strengthen a Leeds team, which seems to have been firing on only one cylinder, for most of this season and I can’t help thinking that the long suffering fans are being short-changed, due to the playing squad being far too small and very weak in very obvious key areas of the team.

    I’m totally behind Steve Evans, but he must be backed in the transfer market straight away and not at the end of January, when the decent players have all been snapped up and games have passed by.

  • andy p

    in america at mo, seems ironic we hit good spell but end up worse off than before re playoffs

  • pattayarag

    Looks like Steve Evans just needed a chance with a ‘bigger’ club to show what he can do.

    As you said, he’s great with the media. He’s somehow got everybody playing at the top of their game, Byram, Wooton, Doukara and Bellusci(?) spring to mind here. He’s united a supposedly divided squad, he’s got them playing with passion and he has filled them with belief, a belief that they can beat anybody. Finally, he’s one for one on signings with Bridcutt being a stand out performer from almost his first game.

    Can we dream that Evans is from the same mold as a number of Scottish managers who’ve graced the English leagues. Please let it be so.

    p.s. I was 100% against his appointment and am now happily eating humble pie, (EHP). Long may it continue. Maybe instead of MOT it should be EHPT………

  • Matthew

    If we end up weaker by the end of the transfer window, I genuinely can’t see him lasting the season. Results will suffer, and we all know Cellino will likely prematurely pull the trigger and make the club a laughing stock again. The transfer window always makes me a bit nervous, as the unpredictability of it comes into play. I’d like to see him break the Cellino manager curse and be here long term, time will tell.

  • henrymouni

    He has been a breath of fresh air since he came in.
    I too worry about the transfer window.
    Steve keeps mentioning players that are lined up and ready to come, but other managers have had similar promises.
    It may be we have to sell someone to generate the funds?
    Cellino has been pretty quiet since Steve arrived, apart from this recent Sky debacle, and this has helped all of us!
    If we can get 3 points against the Dons, it will have been a fantastic start by Mr Evans and maybe Massimo will see the light (Prem’ millions) at the end of the tunnel??
    There is half a season to go yet, and we would have a great chance.

    Happy New Year to all!!

    • Matthew

      Realistically we need another 40 points to even have a shout at the playoffs. Forget where we are in the table, there are 66 points left to play for. The closer we get to the 70 point level, the closer(If we’re not there already) to the play off spots we will be. However, this is all hypothetical, as a disastrous transfer window could send us plummeting down the table.