Paul Evans on life after football, seeing Bielsa’s class first hand and finding the Leeds owner cooking in the Elland Road kitchen

“He was cooking in the canteen, he had his Sainsburys bag with ingredients. He was cooking pasta and he was saying to the canteen ladies, ‘you’re murdering this pasta, you don’t do it like that’.”

Despite having a stellar Football League career Oswestry’s Paul Evans never made it to the promised land, the Premier League.

As a player that is. As a massuer the former Shrewsbury Town man has excelled up the ranks and is now in the Premier League with Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United.

In part two of this lengthy interview, Evans goes through the weird and wonderful during his career the other side of the white line, from fake sheikhs to chairmen cooking pasta, and the fascinating world of Marcelo Bielsa.

Evans spent a year with Bielsa as part of his backroom team at Leeds United during his first season in English football.

Bielsa has won the hearts of fans in the UK for his style of play, but also for his personality despite his lack of English.

And as Evans explained, one small gesture during his early days at Elland Road showed the class of the man so many top coaches look up to.

Evans explained: “One thing in his early days before pre-season, was that Stuart Dallas and his partner had a baby boy.

“Bielsa walked into the dressing room, gave him a hug and said, ‘congratulations on the birth of your baby boy’.

“It just showed his class and the respect he had for everyone. He had gone away and worked and learned what he needed to say.

“He didn’t make a big deal of it, just went over and said it. It show the class of the man.”

Evans’ time under one of the games sharpest minds was a far cry from when he began the so called, life after football.

After qualifying while playing for Halifax, Evans managed to land a job at Notts County under a former manager from his Nottingham Forest days.

He was soon sacked, and then that infamous takeover at Meadow Lane took place.

In came Sven Goren Eriksson, Kasper Schmeichel and Sol Campbell but to name a few.

The takeover ended in disaster but it was a colorful start to life on the backroom team for Evans.

He said: “I had to get experience. I worked at Leeds for free then I was offered a job at Notts County, and it was when the Fake Sheikh stuff happened and Sven came in.

“Sol Campbell was there. He made his debut on the Saturday, had the team photo then came back into the ground and shouted ‘Evo, get my boots in a bag’.

“I asked if he had forgotten them and he said: ‘No I’m going, this isn’t right’. We never saw him again!

“Sven was a great bloke though, very polite and he treated everyone the same from the best player to the tea lady.

“And when things went wrong, credit to Sven, he found a backer for the club and put a lot of unpaid work into things.

“Then Steve Cotterill came in and they went on to win the league.”

Evans moved on to Derby County to work under Nigel Clough, but as he soon found out, his job description stretched a bit further than just massaging the players.

He said: “Even in the interview, Nigel asked how fit I was.

“I told him I hadn’t played for a year, and he said you’ll do four or five games for the reserves won’t you.

“I played eight games that year. I think a few young boys were playing up, and putting me on the bench was a way of saying, ‘the first team massuer is on the bench but you’re not’, and to liven them up.

“It was crazy really.”

Evans, who had made a name for himself on the park during his career, was making a name for himself off it.

He moved to Leicester City to be re-united with Sven, before working under Nigel Pearson who on to take the Foxes to the Premier League.

But as Evans explained, he jumped the gun when leaving and missed out on Premier League success!

He added: “Sven was great again, such a nice bloke.

“Then Nigel Pearson came in and there was a great togetherness and I absolutely loved my time at Leicester.

“It was really hard to leave. Leeds asked me to go there and it was 15 miles from my house, whereas Leicester was 115.

“But I loved it there, it was a really great club.

“I timed it right didn’t I! They got promoted, won the Premier League and got into the Champions League.”

Evans went to Leeds at a time where the club was up and down on a daily basis, to say the least.

Evans with one Leeds boss, Paul Heckingbottom

By Evans’ calculations he worked with 13 managers, three owners, and when he left only the kitman was the same as when he arrived.

“It was colorful, it was crazy, genuine madness,” added Evans.

“I didn’t have any run ins with people, but the maddest was (Massimo) Cellino.

“When he took over he had a guy with him called Gianluca Festa, and he used to stand on a bank during training taking notes, it was bizarre.

“Then we had Brian McDermott who had done well at Reading. He was sacked on the deadline day, then on the Saturday we got in the dressing room and Festa had a kit made up for him.

“Then that was taken away, then another, then someone else took charge of the team.

“Anyway we won 5-1 against Huddersfield and Brian was reinstated after the game. Honestly it was mad.”

Uwe Rosler was another Evans enjoyed working under but his sacking was again a crazy moment in the Cellino tenure.

Along with an incident where Evans and his colleagues turned up at Elland Road to find the owner cooking.

He explained: “Rosler was a nice guy, liked hard work but respected people and I would have loved to played for him.

“Anyway he got sacked, came in to say thanks and goodbye and then 30 minutes later Steve Evans rolled up the driveway.

“You couldn’t believe it.

“Cellino wasn’t a bloke to mess with.

“And one thing we turned up and he was cooking in the canteen, he had his Sainsburys bag with ingredients.

“And he was cooking pasta and he was saying to the canteen ladies, ‘you’re murdering this pasta, you don’t do it like that you do it like this’.

“It was mad. There are probably a million more stories I can’t talk about!”

Then Evans spent a year under Biesla, who failed to get Leeds up at the first attempt but gained promotion in his second season.

“Bielsa kept himself and his coaching staff away from other staff, he’s very good at what he does.

“He was a lovely man, and said hello and was pleasant.

“His training was great to watch, all these passing moves you’d see work on a Saturday.

“And the transformation was huge, with players like Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas and Luke Cooper, who are great lads and have gone on to the Premier League.”

After more than five years at Leeds, in what was a turbulent time in the club’s history Evans was happy to move on towards more calmer waters at Bramall Lane.

He now works with his former Oxford United boss Wilder, and he has revealed his boss sometimes asked him for opinions on football matters and he is confident the Blades can turn things around this season.

He added: “He is an honest guy, and he respects your opinion. I think its with the games I have played.

“The position isn’t great but its fine margins going against us at the moment.

“We are in a false position and with the work the lads put in, things will turn around.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: