Too big to lose: Evans blasts Football League for trying to keep Leeds United out of Premier League

Leeds United's head coach Steve Evans.
Leeds United's head coach Steve Evans.
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Leeds United boss Steve Evans has launched an extraordinary attack on the Football League, accusing the governing body of deliberately obstructing the club’s attempts to win promotion to the Premier League.

Evans stoked the ongoing feud over fixture disruption and televised matches by suggesting the organisation’s refusal to intervene in the dispute was down to the fact that it “perhaps wants to keep you in the Football League.”

The 53-year-old has added his voice to criticism of repeated changes to United’s schedule this season following Massimo Cellino’s angry attempt to highlight the issue two months ago.

Cellino, who is currently appealing an attempt by the League to ban him from running Leeds, hit out at the League at the end of October following Sky Sports’ decision to televise 10 of the club’s fixtures before the turn of the year.

Leeds’ trip to Nottingham Forest this weekend was one of the games affected - moved back from its original Boxing Day date - and Derby County, who play on December 26, will come to Elland Road on December 29, a day later than originally planned.

Evans described Leeds as the “biggest club in the Football League” and implied that the governing body was worried about losing a team who consistently produce the largest average away attendance outside the top flight and also attract big television audiences.

Evans said Derby’s additional recovery time ahead of next week’s clash would be a “big disadvantage” for Leeds and complained again about the disruption which saw last week’s visit to Wolverhampton Wanderers rearranged for a Thursday night.

The United head coach, whose side have moved to within five points of the play-offs after three wins from four matches, said: “It was difficult enough to come out of Wolverhampton Wanderers, get back to Elland Road at three in the morning and then turn it around at Preston. Now we’re asked to do it again.

“But I suppose if you’re the biggest club in the Football League, the Football League perhaps want to keep you in the Football League. That’s how it feels when you’re in Elland Road.”

Cellino has written to the Football League requesting a copy of its broadcast deal with Sky, a demand which the governing body has so far resisted.

The Italian moved in October to cut Leeds’ ticket allocation for away games to 2,000 - a move which he said would affect the income of rival clubs - but reversed that decision quickly amid strong opposition from United’s support.

Leeds, who are midway through their 12th straight season outside the Premier League, kick off at Forest at 4.30pm on Sunday, more than 24 hours after Derby play Fulham at Pride Park. United and County then meet at Elland Road two days later.

Evans said: “It’ll have to mean squad rotation. The only thing I can guarantee is that I’m not going to play.

“When we’re doing battle live on television against Nottingham Forest, the Derby players will already be 30 hours into their recovery to be ready to coming to Elland Road. That’s a big disadvantage but it won’t affect what we do against Nottingham Forest. It’ll maybe affect what we do for Derby.”

Evans, meanwhile, said he was unaware of any firm bids for right-back Sam Byram following claims that Aston Villa scouted the defender during United’s 3-2 win at Wolves.

Byram, who scored twice in that game, is believed to be on the radar of the Premier League’s bottom side having refused the offer of a new contract at Elland Road.

Evans wants United to invite bids for the 22-year-old in the January transfer and said the fact that Leeds would be entitled to compensation when Byram’s current deal ends next summer was likely to attract firm interest in the coming month.

“Come the end of the season, he can’t just walk away,” Evans said. “You’d probably be into the bracket of a couple of millions pounds compensation based on his earnings, his CV.

“You’d assume that clubs would come for him in January rather than wait until the summer because there’s no real advantage of waiting to the summer. Sam’s perhaps become aware or that.”