HEAD coach Steve Evans has vowed to let his side’s football do the talking against Bolton Wanderers today after a turbulent week at Leeds United ended with a public apology to the club’s long-suffering fans.
Evans looked shell-shocked as toothless United imploded during Monday night’s Championship clash at Brighton, in which the Whites conceded four soft goals inside 38 minutes en route to a 4-0 loss, much to the disgust of the club’s travelling 1,500 fans.
Evans was then advised by chairman Massimo Cellino to skip his post-match press duties, fuelling rumours that the Glaswegian – in view of United’s trigger-happy Italian owner leaving the Amex at half-time – was about to be sacked.
Instead, Evans, who is Cellino’s sixth head coach in two years, then received the Italian’s backing on Wednesday, although not without an accompanying warning.
Irrespective of the Brighton horror show, Cellino admitted he had issues with Evans speaking too much about players’ contracts and his own future, instead wanting his head coach to solely focus on match days.
So after doing his best to bat away questions about the future of United’s star youngsters Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt yesterday, an apologetic Evans vowed to do just as Cellino wished, beginning with today’s Elland Road clash with the second-bottom Trotters.
“The first thing I must do is apologise to every Leeds United supporter who not only made the journey (to Brighton) but to those at home watching on live television,” said Evans.
“The performance at Brighton was wholly unacceptable.
“That was the toughest night of my life and I was pretty down.
“I’ve been at Rotherham and lost 6-2 at Port Vale and when I’ve been at Crawley I’ve lost 6-0 to Morecambe despite being top of the league.
“Whilst they are great clubs, they are not a Leeds United and you realise that 4-0 down at half-time at Leeds United is wholly unacceptable, but we all know that.
“I never, ever live in fear of my job because I work too hard at it and people have to make decisions on whether they want you or whether they don’t.
“I have always respected that, whether that be the chairman at Rotherham, Crawley, Boston or Leeds United, I have to respect that. But I think I have maybe allowed myself to speak about matters that are not my remit and I think the one thing I’ve learned in the last few days is that I don’t need to be a PR vehicle for Leeds United.
“It was a fair point (by Cellino) as I have allowed myself to discuss matters that don’t involve us getting the points in the next game.
“I think Leeds United is big and bold enough to speak at the highest level when they chose to and when they feel they need to.
“The one thing that we all have to do here is start to win some football matches because to win only one in 11, despite the fact that we have drawn most of them, isn’t good enough. I have to keep my focus on that.”
United’s dearth of wins has left the club 18th in the Championship table and only nine points off the drop zone.
Victory for Rotherham at Hillsborough today and defeat for Leeds at Elland Road would slash a nine-point safety net to six.
Evans, though, insists he is not even contemplating a relegation battle and is confident Leeds have more than enough in the locker to triumph against the Trotters.
“I’m not focused on anything else other than beating them,” said Evans. “If we play at our best, we can win the game.
“We’ve the utmost respect for Bolton Wanderers. We went and watched them last week against Burnley and I think Sean Dyche was very accurate with his words afterwards, that they had been very fortunate to come out with the points because Neil Lennon’s side dominated for 90 per cent of the game.
“But Burnley had that little bit of quality in Andre Gray and that was the difference.
“I don’t tend to be looking too much at what others are doing, but we have to get some points and the minute that we lose the focus on that then we are not doing our jobs.”
For Evans, that means concentrating solely on his best available 18 for today, with the head coach steering well clear of any questions concerning contract talks with three of the club’s star youngsters. Cook, Taylor and Mowatt will all be out of contract in the summer of 2017 and Evans stated last week that United were in talks to extend the deals of all three.
Mowatt’s agent, however, revealed 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. I’m no longer going to be a PR advert for the people above me. They have to manage that themselves.”
Asked why he had previously claimed that contract 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.”
Evans added: “I have to believe that we are building, but that building starts one game at a time and when you have not won for a little while you have to be winning some matches.
“We had a really good team meeting on Thursday, everyone had an input and we need to keep our focus on Bolton. We hope we can get three points and give everyone a good weekend because that’s the minimum the fans of this club deserve.”