LEEDS UNITED head coach Steve Evans believes Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri has assembled a team capable of sealing promotion to the Premier League.
The two Yorkshire clubs – who meet today in a lunchtime Hillsborough derby – are both attempting to end long respective exiles from the country’s top flight with nearly 16 years having passed since Wednesday’s Premier relegation, which came four years before United’s demise.
But Evans believes Thai businessman Chansiri is about to finally work the oracle at the Owls, who are unbeaten in 12 games at Hillsborough ahead of today’s Championship televised derby.
Evans himself insists Leeds are not yet out of the promotion race despite falling 12 points off the top six with Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss at Ipswich Town that has left the Whites 15th.
Wednesday, though, are riding high in seventh, knowing a victory would at least temporarily take them fifth today, and Evans confidently expects the Owls to challenge for promotion.
Asked if he thought Carlos Carvalhal’s team were capable of going up this term, Evans admitted: “Yes, I do. I thought that at the start of the season and I think when you look at the owner coming in he said very, very clearly that his aim is to be in the Premier League within a year, and if not then certainly in a maximum of two.
“Then you look at what happens behind that and the one thing about the owner at Sheffield Wednesday is he has put his money where his mouth is and he has spent some big money.
“From what we are hearing from agents who ring every manager on a daily basis I don’t think they have finished spending either.”
Evans will also be on the hunt for new blood in the January transfer window, but the Whites are about to lose the services of right-back Sam Byram, who appears to be on his way to Everton as part of a £3.7m deal.
Evans insists he will still attempt to play Byram today should his move to Merseyside have not gone through as United prepare for what Evans expects will be a difficult task at Hillsborough.
“I am expecting to get a bit of stick for a start,” said Evans.
“But I am expecting a good manager, some terrific players, players like Barry Bannan and (Fernando) Forestieri and people like that, who are very gifted.
“There’s also the boy (Kieran) Lee and I have tried to sign them all at my previous clubs.
“They are good players, well organised, disciplined and they are very deserving of the place where they are in the league.
“I am seeing they are securing a lot of these boys on three- and four-year deals so that probably tells me that everyone at Sheffield Wednesday is highly delighted with what they have got.”
Assessing his own side’s prospects, Evans added: “It shouldn’t be forgotten that when I joined this club it was in a relegation fight and very quickly we were talking about having a go for the play-offs. If we win on Saturday, to me, that’s still very much alive.”
Owls head coach Carvalhal, meanwhile, believes his side are “outsiders” for promotion. His assessment comes even though a win this lunchtime would see seventh-placed Wednesday go fifth – leapfrogging Ipswich and Brighton who kick off at 3pm.
“I will never talk about promotion,” said Carvalhal. “We are outsiders in this competition. I still think that.
“We are doing well week-by-week and winning points. We must take it game-by-game and we will see at the end of the season.”
The Portuguese is expecting a tough game today, where he insists “there are no favourites”.
He said: ”Two good bands will play against each other. We both play football in the right way.
“It will be an interesting game. There are no favourites in derby matches. I’m sure the two teams will go for the win.
“We are scoring goals and are happy about that. I hope there will be lots of goals. We will fight until the 96th minute to try and win.”
Wednesday have yet to bring in any new faces during the January transfer window, but they have consolidated their current squad.
Right-back Jack Hunt has seen his loan deal from Crystal Palace turned into a permanent one, while long-term contracts have this week secured the futures of Bannan, Atdhe Nuhiu, Glenn Loovens and Sam Hutchinson.
Five players have committed their future in the last 48 hours, but striker Gary Hooper is due to return to Norwich City when his loan deal expires after today’s game, with Wednesday hoping to thrash out a deal next week for his return.
It’ is a recruitment policy with which Carvalhal is happy.
“If we do something, it won’t be big,” he explained. “First of all, we are trying to organise our house with the players that are here.”
Derby countdown: Page 3