STEVE EVANS admits that the prospect of potentially facing former club Rotherham United in the League One play-off final has tantalisingly crossed his mind.
The Peterborough United manager makes his second return to the AESSEAL New York Stadium for a key fixture this afternoon on an occasion when he is likely to receive a warm reception from Millers supporters.
Evans memorably achieved back-to-back promotions from League Two to the Championship with Rotherham in 2012-13 and 2013-14, with the Scot tasting Wembley glory with the Millers in an unforgettable final success on penalties against Leyton Orient in May 2014.
As it stands his Posh side are eight points behind fourth-placed Millers and occupying the final play-off spot. While his side have work to do to clinch a top-six finish, Evans has acknowledged the potential for a tantalising end to 2017-18 against his former employers.
On the prospect of the two sides locking horns in a Wembley play-off showpiece, Evans told The Yorkshire Post: “It crossed my mind when I got the Posh job.
“But my first task is to get Peterborough United into the play-offs.
“When we came in there was a big imbalance of away games versus home games and the opposition we were playing were some tough teams.
“But I have always loved a tough challenge and am up for making things happen.
“It has crossed my mind. But more importantly I looked at the fixtures and I saw we had Rotherham at the New York, which is always a great game for any manager arriving.
“They are having a wonderful season and, 100 per cent, they will finish in the play-offs and then it becomes cup-tie football. Only then do you see if you have a good cup team.”
Evans will do battle across the dug-outs with someone he knows well in Millers manager Paul Warne, who served as the club’s fitness coach during Evans’s time there.
The ex-Rotherham chief has been impressed by the work of Warne, who he always felt was a manager in the making.
He said: “Warney was someone who was on my staff who was loyal, committed and passionate and a wonderful man and lovely guy.
“When I left I said, ‘You will be the manager one day’ and he said, ‘I don’t want it’ and laughed. He is doing a great job.
“When I spoke to Tony (Stewart) last June and July he said that they had given Paul every chance to get to the Championship with the budget and resources and infrastructure.
“I could never once personally or squad-wise complain about the chairman’s support and I do not think Paul can.
“He is expected within the boardroom to be competing at the top end, but there is also an acceptance that the likes of certainly Blackburn and Wigan are two exceptions, as we had when we were in the league.”
Given Evans’s CV of accomplishment at Rotherham, Warne, in his first season of full-time management, admits that he will have to be on his mettle against the canny Scot, whose methods at the likes of the Millers and Crawley Town have proved conclusively that he is a serial winner at lower-league level.
On the Evans factor, Warne said: “I think I have picked up something off every manager that I have worked and played for. But Steve is a winner and he openly admits that. All he wants to do is win. He is a horrendous loser and I suppose that is the other side of being a great winner. He just gives everything to win a football match and that is all he is bothered about.
“I think the fact that he will sacrifice anything for a game is pretty impressive. Other managers will have things that they do and different protocols and processes. But Steve’s main focus was always on the match-day and, as the week progressed, the pressure got bigger and bigger.
“The game and the lads were always set out and they always knew what he wanted off them. There were never any grey areas and no one could come in after the game and say, ‘well, I did not know that was my job’.”
While Warne is quick to pay credit to the credentials of Evans, his main focus is to instigate a meaningful response from the Millers after an uncharacteristically below-par loss at Southend United last weekend.
The presence of Evans and former Millers assistant Paul Raynor in the away dug-out has made the build-up to today’s game a little bit different, but Warne’s focus is primarily on business and not personalities.
He added: “All I want to do is win the game and move on. It is more that I hope the lads perform to the level which we think they can because, if they do, that should be enough to get us a positive result.”
Last six games: Rotherham WWLLWL Peterborough DWWWLD.
Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).
Last time: Rotherham 0 Peterborough 1; September 28, 2013; League One.