NEW manager Steve Evans is determined to win promotion with Rotherham United this season – even if it means crushing the dreams of his former club Crawley Town.
Evans’s decision to quit Crawley for the Millers this week has sent shockwaves through League Two.
His former employers are currently fourth in the table and still firmly in the hunt for automatic promotion to League One while the Millers are 10th and four points adrift of the play-off zone with only four games to play.
Intriguingly for Evans, who last season led Crawley to the Blue Square Premier League title, there is still the possibility of a play-off showdown between the two clubs if the Millers squeeze into the top seven and Crawley stumble.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday to confirm his arrival on a three-year deal, Evans said: “I would be an absolute hypocrite if I said I wouldn’t raise a glass of wine to celebrate Crawley’s achievement if they reach League One this season.
“But, if we do meet in the play-offs, I will want Rotherham United to win. The Crawley supporters who have known me for five years would also know that.
“It would be the ideal scenario if Crawley go up automatically and Rotherham United win promotion at Wembley,” he added. “But I know who will be the more worried if it is Crawley v Rotherham in the play-offs.”
The Millers visit third-placed Shrewsbury Town on Saturday for Evans’s first game in charge where a victory would not only boost the Millers’ play-off hopes but open the door for Crawley, who host Wimbledon, to return to the top three.
“We need to win at Shrewsbury to keep our possibilities alive,” he said. “If that helps Crawley along the way, I will be doubly delighted. But we know what a win can do on Saturday. Promotion is not a bridge too far if we win at Shrewsbury.
“It will shake the others up with three games to go and I am sure the likes of Crewe, Oxford and Cheltenham – the three teams we ideally can interchange with – will be looking over their shoulders. Historically, the league also tells you that someone gets in on the last day,” he added. “Look at Stevenage two seasons ago. They got in on the last day of the season at 10 to five and the rest is history.”
Although Millers chairman Tony Stewart offered to wait until the summer for Evans’s signature, Crawley’s owners rejected the idea and moved swiftly to install former Reading and Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell as a director of football at the Broadfield Stadium.
“In an ideal world, I would have liked to stay until the summer,” said Evans. “But it was the Crawley owners who said they needed 100 per cent of me to get into League One. I thought I could have stayed on and be 100 per cent focused but I also live in the real world.”
Evans revealed that he even snubbed an eleventh hour plea to stay with Crawley due to his belief that the Millers are a better long-term proposal.
“Even on Monday, after I had set off to come up here, the owners made a call as I was driving on the M1,” he said. “It tugged at the heart strings but I had bought into the reasons why I was coming here and I carried on.
“At Crawley, I recruited every one of the players, we won together, lost together, and we created a culture that everyone hates us, and it worked.
“But there was nothing they could say to change my mind. The decision was never about money.
“There were a few hugs and kisses with the owners at the weekend and we will be friends for the rest of our lives. We have also spoken in the last 48 hours to tie up a few loose ends and when they say ‘bring your family to spend some time with us in the summer’ it tells you how deep the feelings go.
“It was an extremely difficult decision but I have left a very good football club to join something that can become an exceptional football club. We have half an eye on next season, of course, but for now the full focus is on beating Shrewsbury.”
Millers chairman Stewart, who sacked manager Andy Scott after 11 months in charge, has pledged to give Evans full backing in the transfer market this summer when the Millers also move to a new 12,000-capacity stadium in Rotherham after four years lodging at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium.
“We’re a bigger club (than Crawley) with ambition and drive and we’re showing that,” said Stewart. “Steve is not coming here on a smaller budget than he had at Crawley and he’ll be able to do more with this club.
“He is a guy with passion, a good track record, winnability, and drive. It’s not just about a new stadium, it’s about a new stadium with good football and ambition and I think these guys can get us where we want to be.”
Evans has been accompanied to the club by former Huddersfield Town winger Paul Raynor, who has worked previously as his assistant at both Boston United and Crawley.
The Millers have released Scott’s former assistant Darren Patterson – who won four games out of five as caretaker manager – and chief scout Andy Harris.
Chief Operating Officer Paul Douglas said: “Everybody at the club would like to thank Darren for his commitment to the club, and the excellent job he did, not only as assistant manager, but also after stepping in to take charge of the team.
“As well as having a very professional approach to his role at the club, Darren was a very approachable character and an amiable person to have around.”