Cellino protected me says Leeds United boss Steve Evans as he holds hands up to ‘unacceptable’ Brighton rout

Leeds United boss, Steve Evans.
Leeds United boss, Steve Evans.
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STEVE EVANS has today apologised for Leeds United’s performance in Monday’s humbling 4-0 defeat to Brighton but insists that criticism of him by owner Massimo Cellino had not left him in fear of the sack.

Evans broke his silence three days on from United’s capitulation on the south coast by holding his hands up to a “wholly unacceptable” display and saying he agreed with comments by Cellino in which United’s owner accused him of “talking too much.”

“The performance at Brighton was wholly unacceptable. That was the toughest night of my life.”

Steve Evans, Leeds United manager.

Evans’ job as head coach appeared to be on the line on Monday after Leeds conceded four times in 38 first-half minutes at The Amex, prompting Cellino to quit the stadium at half-time and instruct the 52-year-old not to speak to the media afterwards.

Evans’ silence drew criticism in the aftermath of a rout which was watched by more than 1,500 travelling fans but Evans claimed senior officials at the club, including Cellino, had “protected” him by stopping him from speaking out afterwards. He said the order to remain silent had been a “preference” rather than a “clear instruction.”

The former Rotherham United manager, who is Cellino’s sixth first-team boss in less than two years as owner, held onto his job despite the result and he will take charge of his 26th match at home to Bolton Wanderers tomorrow.

He kept his counsel throughout this week but at a press conference at Thorp Arch on Friday morning, Evans reflected on the loss at Brighton saying: “The first thing I must do is apologise to every Leeds United supporter who not only made the journey but to those at home watching on live television.

“The performance at Brighton was wholly unacceptable. That was the toughest night of my life.”

Evans’ assistant, Paul Raynor, gave a brief interview to Sky Sports at the end of the game but Leeds carried out no further media duties before leaving the ground.

Asked why he had declined to apologise immediately after full-time, Evans said: “First and foremost I was addressing the playing staff. But people senior to me in this club protected me and I respect that.

“I wasn’t given a clear instruction but it was said there would be a preference. I didn’t get as clear an instruction as people thought. It was probably felt that if I was hurting so much then speaking wouldn’t be a good thing for me.

“I disagree with one or two people who say they’d ignore a decision from their boss. I had to take it on board and then the following day ask the reasons. I understood them.

“People know I’m a very emotional character. I can understand the reasons given and there aren’t many occasions when I’ve been involved in an event like that. I wear my heart on my sleeve too openly at times.

“The one thing you realise here is that when you say something it gets analysed. I’ve never seen a media response to a 4-0 defeat like I saw on Tuesday.”

Evans said he had received support from Cellino in the aftermath of the Brighton game but the Italian was outspoken on Tuesday, insisting he would not sack Evans but warning him publicly that “in the last few weeks he’s been talking too much about the future, his contract, the players. He needs to focus.”

United’s head coach denied that he had been undermined or seen his authority weakened by those remarks.

“I’ve allowed myself to speak about matters which aren’t my remit,” Evans said. “The one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t need to be a PR vehicle for the club. Leeds United are big enough to speak at the highest level when they feel the need to. I’m no longer going to be a PR advert for the people above me. They have to manage that themselves.

“I think it (Cellino’s view) undermines you if you’re inexperienced and you have issues dealing with authority. You have to respect authority and you have to deal with it. Mr Cellino owns this club, he’s entitled to have an opinion every day. You dissect it and if you think there’s a point in there then you have to learn from that. I certainly think that was the case.

“But I never, ever lay in fear of my job because I work too hard at it. People have to decide if they want you or they don’t. I don’t think our president would have too many words for you if your time was up. But I need to win some matches.”

Evans has spoken in the past few weeks about his own future, saying he expected to extend his contract into next season once United - currently nine points above the Championship’s bottom three - were mathematically safe from relegation.

He also stated a week ago that Leeds were in talks to extend the deals of young prospects Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor. Mowatt’s agent, however, said on Wednesday that he had received no contact from the club about improving the midfielder’s deal.

Evans was unable to clarify the contractual situation of those three players, saying: “One hundred per cent I don’t know. They’re good players and I want to work with them and I now have to let the senior people at the club deal with their business, which is contracts.

“Rather than me worry about what we’re doing or not doing, I have to let those people do their jobs. They don’t do my job so I’m not going to try and do theirs.”

Asked why he had claimed that talks were on-going when he was unclear about the reality, Evans said: “Maybe I’d have liked it to be true. But there’s a difference.

“I have to have respect for the people who are running the club. I don’t hear anyone apart from the president speaking and maybe that’s the way I should give respect back to my colleagues at Elland Road.”

Evans, meanwhile, conceded that speculation about his job would continue unless United’s form picked up after one win from 11 games.

“It only goes away when you win matches and even then it doesn’t always go away,” he said. “We need to concentrate on winning games and getting our performances right. To only win one in 11, despite the fact we’ve drawn most of them, isn’t good enough.”