STEVE EVANS insists he has no regrets about missing out on the chance of becoming Sheffield Wednesday manager almost 12 months ago – and says he is happy working for “a wonderful football club” in Rotherham United.
The Scot takes his Millers side to Hillsborough tomorrow for the South Yorkshire neighbours’ first second-tier meeting at S6 since August 2002, with the visitors having taken three points with 90th-minute winners on their last two league visits there.
If the fates had been different, Evans could have been sat in the home dug-out and not the away one this weekend, with the 52-year-old strongly linked with the Owls post last December following the sacking of Dave Jones.
The Owls asked the Millers for permission to speak to Evans, but were denied with chairman Tony Stewart making it clear that he could fulfil his ambitions at Rotherham.
Subsequent events have fully vindicated this and while Evans admitted to being flattered by the link at the time, he quickly moved on.
He said: “I could have been in the other dugout. But I have never been a manager who reminisces.
“There are other managers sitting in Championship clubs recently where I could have been sat in their dugout.
“But it is not about reminiscing about where you could have been.
“Sheffield Wednesday are a fantastic football club with a history and tradition and a fanbase that comes with it.
“But it wasn’t right for me to leave Rotherham United and that is as far as the decision got.
“I have got the most loyal, fantastic and whole-hearted chairman I could wish to work for. He really is a great man.
“In the future, that partnership will break because he will either sack me or I will leave and join Celtic. But when I joined, Tony Stewart gets humbly embarrassed when I say to him, ‘Sir Alex (Ferguson) used to tell me pick your football clubs by your chairman’ and I picked Rotherham United and he has delivered to every question I have asked him.
“I remember speaking to Ronnie Moore before I took the job about Tony and he sacked Ronnie. But Ronnie still spoke of him in the most glowing terms. When you get that, you are pretty special as an individual.”
An added ingredient alongside the battle for South Yorkshire bragging rights tomorrow is the presence in the Owls’ squad of Scottish international striker Stevie May, a player the Millers’ manager had coveted for some considerable time.
Persistence looked like it had paid off in August with Rotherham lining up a club record move for the St Johnstone man, only to be gazumped by Wednesday, who signed him for £800,000.
Evans says he harboured no resentment with May, and believes that the financial package on offer from the Owls tipped the scales.
Evans said: “They just paid him a lot more money. But the young man conducted himself in a really respectful, very professional manner.
“It doesn’t take away my admiration for a young man who I think highly of.
“We chased him for a long time, but then Sheffield Wednesday sell a player to Nottingham Forest, money arrives and they have the option to go and sign Stevie.
“But, listen, would I have done the same to Stuart (Gray, Owls manager)? Absolutely. Football’s a ruthless business. We tried desperately to get him in, and time will prove Stuart signed an excellent player in Stevie May.
“I would suggest he is probably at the top end of the wages scale at Hillsborough, but that is not for me to be concerned about. I hope he has an absolute stinker if he plays on Saturday.”
Both sides head into tomorrow’s game with points to prove after poor midweek defeats, but Evans – hurting after the Millers’ lame 3-0 loss at Reading – believes that the pressure is firmly on the shoulders of the hosts, who have won just once at home in the league this term and are without a win in nine matches.
The Millers showed their big-game derby credentials to beat both Wednesday and Sheffield United in league and cup at the New York Stadium last season and also vanquished Leeds United in front of the TV cameras last month.
Evans’s men also displayed their mettle on two play-off dates with Preston at the end of 2013-14 and in the League One play-off final against Leyton Orient and in terms of possessing the requisite big-game mentality, the Millers have not been found wanting in recent years.
Evans said: “We have always been able to identify players who respond to big occasions and respond to games where it means everything to everybody.
“You don’t prepare any differently for a derby than you do for any other game.
“But perhaps the words stay in the minds of players for longer and with a little bit more intent than on other occasions.
“But we have been successful in derbies because we have executed the game plan.”
On the pressures of tomorrow’s game, he added: “The pressure is on Wednesday.
“The pressure is that they are the home side, and if you are the home side you have a certain degree of responsibility to go and try to win a football match. As an away team, you have a responsibility to take something from the game. That’s how football works.”