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Evans still insists we can challenge next season
Tuesday, 23rd Feb 2016 18:15 by Tim Whelan

Despite our current position in the bottom half of the table Steve Evans is still insisting that he can build a side to challenge for promotion next season, provided he has the backing of Massimo Cellino.

We’ve only seen a marginal improvement since Evans has been in charge (26 points in his 20 league games, compared to 11 from 11 under Uwe Rosler), and our abysmal home performances have continued. Yet the current head coach thinks we could have been in an even worse predicament without the quality of the three players he has brought to the club.

He told the Yorkshire Post “The one thing that I don’t forget is that when I first accepted the job at Leeds United, I had one remit from the owner - to stay up. Because everyone thought they were going down. I have only brought three players in and have they improved us? The answer is by some distance. I would say they are three of our better players and that’s the standard of player that I am going to be getting in over the summer and making us a real promotion contender.”

“I think there will be investment by the owner when we go forward into the summer. If I get supported, I will put on the pitch a squad of men that will challenge for the Premier League.” So Evans obviously thinks the world of his own ability to spot a good player in the transfer market, a theme he continued to expand on in today’s press conference.

"I am one of the few managers in recent years, not the best, that has a track record when he has told supporters that when he will put a promotion squad on the pitch, that has followed and got supported. I have 100 per cent belief I will get supported to put that squad in place, and that's my objective."

He has promised the current squad that they will still be in his plans and work hard till the end of the season, but that he will be ruthless in clearing out those who he doesn’t think have a future at Elland Road. And it would appear that Jordan Botaka is likely to be one of that number, even though he has a contract until the summer of 2017.

Botaka has seemed quite skilful during his occasional first team appearances, but there has rarely been any end product. He had the misfortune to be signed very late is Rosler’s reign, and so didn’t get the chance to adapt to English football and establish himself before Evans took over. Clearly Evans hasn’t taken to him, and doesn’t feel the need to back a player who was signed by somebody else.

While Leeds have made extensive use of the loan system in recent years, Evans isn’t likely to sign anyone who isn’t likely to convert a loan spell into a permanent transfer. We have repeatedly been linked with a loan move for Norwich striker Kyle Lafferty, but now it doesn’t look like the player is coming to Leeds, despite our lack of firepower.

It seems that negotiations have broken down over the tricky issue of the player’s wages, and Evans has said that Lafferty’s desire to break into the Northern Ireland squad isn’t his problem. “We’re not going to go into the market and sign somebody now on emergency loan to get them fit for the Euros, that’s not the remit. To build a team you have to believe that players are going to be here long term.”

So is Evans really capable of taking us to promotion, or is this just more bluster from the big man? Like all Leeds fans, I hope he is right when he says we will be challenging next season, but his outbursts have become more and more tiresome in recent weeks. Who really believes that we should have been Forest a few weeks ago, and that we were unlucky to go out of the FA cup on Saturday?

At least he has promised that if he doesn’t deliver a promotion challenge next season he’ll be on his way. “If I don’t build a promotion team, and I’m talking top six here, then I won’t be at Leeds and I’ll do that myself. I won’t need Mr Cellino to sack me. I’ve got too much pride. So back me and I’ll take you into a promotion place, that’s my belief. If I fail that, I will drive out of Thorp Arch and I will be broken hearted and I will admit failure.”

And this time, I really hope that he does mean what he says.

Photo: Action Images

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