AHEAD of today’s visit to the stadium where Leeds United lost their Premier League status more than a decade ago, Steve Evans believes achieving short-term targets will be the key to earning an extended stay at the helm.
A whirlwind week for the Elland Road club will culminate in a trip across the Pennines to Bolton Wanderers.
Evans, buoyed by an encouraging performance from his new charges in the midweek draw at Fulham, is hoping to lay down a further marker as to what United fans can expect from his side in the coming weeks.
He believes a return to a level United last played at in 2004 – when a 4-1 hammering at the Reebok sent the club down three years to the day after appearing in a Champions League semi-final – can be achieved, but only if the right building blocks are put in place now.
“Every day I am here is a proud day,” said the Scot to The Yorkshire Post. “I want to be here for years.
“Of course, what my agenda is might not be the agenda of the powers-that-be. But I want to be the guy who takes them to the Premier League and makes them successful there.
“It is all about stepping stones. The first thing we have to do is win points so let’s set ourselves some targets, namely winning a game because that winning feeling has not been there for a whole.
“Let’s bounce into the top half of the table. Let’s have someone looking at Leeds as a difficult game. Let’s get Elland Road back to a place where everyone fears going. No one fears going (at the moment), it is seven months since the supporters have seen their team win.
“Let’s set initial benchmarks and if I get to those benchmarks, I will be manager. I have to believe that. And I do believe that.
“If I wake up and I am told I am not manager but I have delivered things along the lines of meeting those targets, I will have been unlucky.”
As encouraging as the manner of Leeds’s performance was in their first game under Evans, a giant shadow continues to hover over the club in the form of an impending ban for owner Massimo Cellino.
The Italian has until next Wednesday to appeal against the ban, which if upheld will run until June, 2016.
“I have not spoken to him about the ban,” insisted Evans when asked about Cellino. “People from afar will think, ‘Why not?’
“But, in simple terms, it has got nothing to do with me. One thing I have said, though, is that when you spend time with the president, you can see he is a fighter and a tenacious man.
“So, he will take that battle wherever he thinks it needs to go. I will continue to concentrate on the grass, which means Bolton away.”
Another Yorkshire manager focused on trying to take his club up into the Premier League is Steve Bruce.
However, while Leeds are very much a work-in-progress in terms of forcing their way into the promotion race, Hull City are handily placed in fourth after a six-game unbeaten run in the Championship.
Today, though, will bring a stiff test in the form of Bruce’s former club Birmingham in what has to be a strong contender to be considered the Football League’s match of the day.
Ahead of taking on the second-placed Blues, Bruce said: “This is a big game but one, if we approach it right, there is no reason why we can’t win it. We have an opportunity.
“I am pleased with the squad I have. I looked at my subs’ bench at Nottingham Forest (before the international break) and thought, ‘All of them would play regularly in the Championship for someone else’.
“That is a consequence of being in the Premier League. It is a strength we have. Of course, it is okay having that strength on paper but we have to produce and, over the past few weeks, we have done. We have got to grips with the challenge, slowly but surely the ship is turning round and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.”
Hull go into today’s clash on the back of their most impressive performance of the season after Ipswich were beaten 3-0 at the KC Stadium on Tuesday night.
A big feature of that and most games at Hull’s home was the opposition opting to try and frustrate Bruce’s men – something he admits could happen again today against a side who specialise in counter-attacking thanks to a pacey frontline.
“I think people are now starting to take note of us. We have to live with that expectation,” he said. We have to be patient.”