Steve Evans has served his big-time apprenticeship at Leeds United – and he’s shown beyond reasonable doubt that he deserves a proper crack at the biggest job outside the Premier League. As every United fan knows, it’s a bigger job, and a hotter seat, than most in the top division too. But, while his physical frame has shrunk in size during his time at Elland Road, Evans has grown into the job, displaying determination, commitment and more dignity than is to be found elsewhere in the club. To let him go now would be the act of a fool.
Evans has been around Leeds long enough to know the place, strengths, weaknesses and all. He has been in football long enough, and has earned success enough, to come up with the right prescription for next season – given the chance. To go back to square one, with a new coaching staff, is surely not what is now required.
The nature of the building job for a new campaign must be – initially – the provision of solid foundations for a team that has forgotten how to keep clean sheets. Building from the back, prioritising solid and reliable defence, is the long-standing recipe for football success. Once established, a mean and uncompromising defence, with cover by some grit and industry in midfield, allows for licence to create and accumulate further forward. Evans, like many a coach, knows this. But Evans is in a uniquely advantageous position when it comes to knowing how to apply such knowledge to the situation that pertains at Elland Road.
The man himself seems suddenly pessimistic about his chances of carrying on in a job he relishes. Tears will be shed, he tells us, if time is called on his United career. Indeed, anyone with the interests of United at heart might feel slightly moist about the optics if Leeds once more upset their own applecart. What then lies ahead but more uncertainty, more blind stabs in the dark of the budget end of the transfer market?
Leeds have the chance of starting next season’s business in an unaccustomed atmosphere of stability. They must seize that chance. Evans knows the club and he knows the way forward. He’s done better than any other manager in the club’s recent, chequered history. He backs himself to succeed, knowing the price of failure.
Now, Leeds United must back him too.