Boyhood viewing of Leeds fuels interest for Millers’ boss

Rotherham United manager Steve Evans. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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as a football-mad boy growing up in his native Glasgow, Steve Evans was alerted to the footballing giant that is Leeds United.

That arrived back in April 1970 in the second leg of a ‘Battle of Britain’ European Cup tie which so enthralled fans on both sides of the border when Jock Stein’s Celtic took on Don Revie’s United.

A scarely-believable crowd of 136,505 packed out Hampden Park to the rafters for the decisive second instalment of the semi-final encounter, which saw the Hoops prevail 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

In the Hampden crowd, the highest ever for a UEFA competition match – and a record unlikely to be beaten – was a young Evans, with his respect for Leeds having carried on from that day, despite being Celtic daft.

The Rotherham manager, relishing locking horns with Leeds in Friday’s televised derby at the New York Stadium, told The Yorkshire Post: “We did not go on about English football that much up in Glasgow, but one team that we knew about was Leeds United.

“If you’re a Scotsman and you are of my age, how can you not know about Billy Bremner and Peter Lorimer? They are absolute icons and legends of Scotland and that is where their (Leeds) history and tradition comes from.

“Who can forget 136.000 watching Celtic against Leeds? I was a little boy and I was one of them.

“I have never hidden my views. If everyone in football took off their biased heads, Leeds United – by history, tradition and worldwide support – is the biggest club in the Championship.

“If you go to deepest Africa, people have heard of Manchester United. But they have also heard of Leeds United, that’s how big Leeds are.

“I remember when I was on holiday with my wife and children in Cyprus and the fixtures came through to me in the early morning and I looked and went: ‘What a run of games.’ We had Blackburn at home and then Leeds United and Fulham and then Brighton.

“But Leeds was always the big game that stuck out for obvious reasons.

“I do not need to tell the Leeds United followers about the great times that the club has had and the great times it will have again in the future.

“It is about football coming in cycles and when you are a massive club like Leeds, they will have their great days again.

“I watch with interest from a distance and see people up and down the country knock Massimo Cellino.

“I have never met him or spoke to him and don’t have any desire to do so, but if he hadn’t have stepped in, you fear what might have happened to Leeds.”

While Evans’s respect for Leeds is obvious, alongside what he considers to be their high ranking in the pantheon of English football, Friday will strictly be about business.

His sights will be firmly set on not only competing against Darko Milanic’s side, but on his Millers outfit endeavouring to produce a famous victory and performance for the vast majority of the sell-out New York Stadium crowd who will be shouting for a home win.

He said: “We will give Leeds the respect that they deserve, especially with their fanbase, which is incredible. We have got to be ready to match that both on the pitch and off it.

“It is 11 versus 11 and with the game being on Sky Sports, we want to make sure that the minimum we do is give ourselves a chance of winning the game by the time we get to around 70 minutes.

“If we do that, teams in the division will know we are very organised and fit and we want to give ourselves that opportunity.”