Leeds United v Rotherham United: Steve Evans hoping to bring back the magic

Jermaine Beckford slides the ball past Man U Keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and Wes Brown to score at Old Trafford for Leeds in January, 2010.
Jermaine Beckford slides the ball past Man U Keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and Wes Brown to score at Old Trafford for Leeds in January, 2010.
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STEVE EVANS’S first experience of a fabled Leeds United occasion arrived as a child when he was among the throng which totalled 136,505 at Hampden Park in April, 1970.

Evans had accompanied his father to watch boyhood idols Glasgow Celtic lock horns with Don Revie’s great Whites team in the second leg of their European Cup semi-final – in what proved a record crowd for a Uefa competition match, which is never likely to be beaten.

It made a lasting impression on the current Leeds head coach and while it is highly unlikely that he will be involved in such a reverential occasion during his tenure at Elland Road, it has not stopped him dreaming about being part of a special cup date or two with the club.

The Scot, who does battle with former club Rotherham United at Leeds for the second time in under two months today, may have this week spoken about the FA Cup being devalued due to the scheduling of league fixtures in the country’s two top divisions this coming Tuesday.

But do not let it be said that the world’s most famous and oldest domestic footballing cup competition has lost his lustre with Evans.

His passionate comments this week were more indicative of his sadness that the cup is not being placed on the high pedestal it deserves – due to impending league business forcing many sides to rest players this weekend.

Evans is someone who retains a keen sense of footballing history and regardless of what many in the managerial fraternity believe to be inherent folly in scheduling important league games just three days after one of the most marquee dates in the domestic calendar, the juices will be flowing today.

It is the incurable footballing romantic in him, allied to a desire to add another entry to his managerial CV which has achieved plenty in his time in Yorkshire since arriving at Rotherham in April, 2012.

An FA Cup run is the one glaring omission, although his previous foray with Crawley Town five years ago should provide him with succour.

Evans helped the West Sussex minnows become the first non-league side in 17 years to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, with the Blue Square Bet Premier Leagues handing Manchester United a mighty scare before going down 1-0 at Old Trafford.

A visit to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ – albeit in a winning cause with Leeds – would be right up Evans’s street.

Failing that, a visit to another venerated English footballing cathedral would suffice although a plum home draw at Elland Road is something that he admits would top most things.

But first things first with Leeds, who have tackled the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and both Manchester clubs in the cup this decade, having to attend to parochial business.

Evans said: “The FA Cup is a magical cup competition and the biggest cup competition in world football. On Saturday, while there are not lots of games that can provide upsets, there will be some – all around the cup.

“And there will be upsets in the fourth round and the fifth. That is what happens.

“I would love to be the head coach of Leeds United hosting one of the top two or three teams in the Premier League. Not only because I think that at Elland Road we could beat them because it would be 12 against 11, wouldn’t it?

“We have the 12th man with the crowd and not many clubs at our level have that 12th man.

“Would I love to see fans on the roofs at Elland Road – and I have been here and seen those nights myself? Absolutely.

“There’s a lot of clubs who are mid-table in the Premier League who would love to come here for a pay-day. They would love to come here, live on the TV, with 30-odd thousand and we’d love that.”

If not an attractive home tie, what about a return to Old Trafford down the line after going so close to a famous result with Crawley?

Evans responded: “I’d only say I’d like to go if we got the same result Leeds had last time there.

“I remember watching on the television and being buzzing off it as no-one expected it apart from the Leeds support. It was a fantastic day; an iconic one and why the boy (match-winner Jermaine) Beckford will always be acclaimed by the Leeds United family.”

Today’s appointment may lack stardust, but is certainly not lacking in spice, with his successor at the Millers and one of his predecessors at Elland Road in Neil Redfearn leaving in the summer.

After the Millers’ win at Leeds in November, Redfearn went on to brand owner Massimo Cellino ‘childish’ for refusing him a car park pass.

Evans, on the other hand, has no bad blood with his former club and his friendship with Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart endures despite their parting of the ways in September.

He added: “I had dinner with the chairman at Rotherham and his family just before Christmas.

“They are personal friends and will be friends until the day any of us leaves this planet. The people who own Rotherham United Football Club are great people and the people who support them gave me the most fantastic support.

“I was proud to be a part of them and proud to have taken them to the Championship.

“I went on record as saying I could turn up one day a week and still keep them in the Championship and that’s still true. They have a special group of players who still don’t know how to lose.”