STEVE EVANS has reiterated his desire to remain at Leeds United beyond this season amid strong indications from owner Massimo Cellino that the club’s next head coach will be from abroad.
The 53-year-old became the longest serving coach of Cellino’s two-year reign when taking charge of the weekend victory over Reading.
It was the Scot’s 34th game at the helm, but an interview with the United owner in a national newspaper yesterday suggested a change will be made in the summer.
After accusing Evans once again of “talking too much”, Cellino went on to bemoan how he was unable “to work with England managers” amid hints that the next appointment at Elland Road will be foreign.
“I have not seen the article or all the quotes, but if Mr Cellino decides it is time up then it is time up,” said the Scot when asked about the Italian’s comments. “History tells you that.
“But we are on target to have our highest-placed finish in five years, from a remit of, ‘Keep us in the division because we may get relegated’.
“That would be an overwhelming success, as much as we are disappointed with some patches of it.
“I have always maintained that this is somewhere I want to have a future.
“It is a club that is now ready for a promotion campaign and I can deliver that next season.”
Pressed on whether he considered Cellino’s comments to be a dig at British managers rather than just English, Evans replied: “You would need to ask Mr Cellino if that was a broader comment. But the president is entitled to speak his words and give opinions.
“Five or six years ago, I may have got upset with things. I am not saying I wouldn’t shed tears or hurt (if he left Leeds) but there is a difference.
“I don’t think the president would say anything disrespectful to me.
“I know what he has told me privately, what he thinks of me as an individual and a head coach.
“I have to afford him the time to make his decision.”
Cellino’s comments – which were first made public on Sunday night – overshadowed what had been a positive weekend.
On Saturday, a 3-2 victory over Reading took Evans’s side back into the top half of the table. The following night Lewis Cook was named the Football League’s Young Player of the Year at a gala dinner in Manchester.
Considering Dele Alli, now an integral member of the England squad heading to Euro 2016, picked up the award last season and past winners include Gareth Bale and Fabian Delph, Cook is in exalted company.
“It is a great achievement and a good end to the season for me,” said Cook at the awards night in Manchester.
“There is a lot of good, young talent in the Football League so I am honoured to win this award.
“I look at the (past) winners and a lot have gone on to achieve really good things. I just want to try and replicate that.”
Cook has made 43 appearances this term for Leeds, taking the teenager’s overall tally to 81.
During that time, Cook has played under five head coaches and this lack of cohesion at the top of the club makes his progress all the more impressive.
His contract runs out next summer and there are certain to be suitors bidding in the summer with Bournemouth understood to be among those ready to test Leeds’s resolve.
For his part, Cook remains focused on achieving his dream of Premier League football with United.
“A second season can be quite hard for a young player and I have found that at times,” said Cook.
“Maybe the opposition know a bit more about you. Plus, in your first season, you get a bit of leeway, the pressure is off.
“But I am glad to have played a lot of games and got some experience under my belt. Now I just want to push on and improve my game.”
Asked if he found the off-field matters that dominate the Elland Road agenda most weeks a problem, Cook replied: “No, not at all.
“It isn’t a distraction. I just focus on my football. All the lads are the same. You have to block the rest out and pull together.
“A top-10 finish would be good. We want to end the season playing positive football and by getting a few more wins for the fans.
“We should be finishing a bit higher. We are good enough.
“The manager has been good. He helps me a lot. He speaks to me individually and tries to tell me what I need to improve. He also praises me and says what I am good at.”
The virus that hit Sol Bamba and Tom Adeyemi last weekend is still causing problems with two unnamed players sent home from training yesterday.
Last six games: Leeds United LLDLWW, Wolverhampton Wanderers DDDWDL.
Referee: D Coote (West Yorkshire).
Last time: Leeds United 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2; October 25, 2014; Championship.