Steve Evans has told The Times today how Leeds United fans chanting for Massimo Cellino to keep him as head coach for the 2016/17 season prompted the Italian to replace him in the summer.
It seems a lifetime ago now, but Evans was in charge of the Whites seven years ago. The Scotsman was appointed after Cellino had decided to sack Uwe Rosler early on in his tenure.
Evans was not a popular appointment by any means. And given what has followed since, his time in charge is not remembered fondly. However, he did build something of a rapport with the fanbase during his tenure. Certainly, his passion could never be questioned – even if other aspects of his managerial style could.
Steve Evans suggests why Cellino decided against keeping him
He received a warm reception on the final day of that season as Leeds travelled to Deepdale to take on Preston North End. At the time, it was unclear whether he would keep his job beyond that campaign.
Interestingly, Evans told BBC Sport after the game that he thought he knew whether he was staying or not. But he was then no longer sure. And perhaps the reason for that uncertainty has now come to light.
Evans spoke to Peter Lorimer after the game. And it seems that the warm reaction from the Leeds fans prompted Cellino to change his mind on keeping Evans.
“I went over to him and he said ‘What are you thinking?’ I said, ‘I just hope I’m here next year.’ He said, ‘I think you were… but I’m not so sure you are now’,” he told The Times.
“I asked ‘What have I done?’ He said, ‘I was sitting with Massimo and at the end of the game you went over to applaud the Leeds end and they were singing ‘Cellino, Cellino sign him up.’ And Massimo turned to me and said ‘I never, ever give way to the fans.’ He replaced me with Garry Monk.”
Leeds fans and Evans deserved better
Given the chaos of the Cellino years at Elland Road, it would not be at all surprising if the Italian made a decision for that exact reason. But it seems so strange.
Ultimately, Leeds benefitted from the change. Garry Monk took the Whites closer to the play-offs the following season than anyone since Simon Grayson. And actually, every major decision in those years played their part in Marcelo Bielsa ending up at Leeds.
But there is no question at all that if that story’s true, Evans and the Leeds fans absolutely deserved better.