The sacking of Steve Evans needs an explanation
Peterborough United fan Steve Evans will be hurting tonight.
Not just because he’s been sacked when the side he’s been managing are right in the thick of the League One promotion place. It’s also because the side he has been managing is the side he supports, well after Celtic anyway.
Of course emotion and sentiment can play no part in the ruthless world of professional football. But results usually do. Posh are currently sixth behind five bigger League One clubs having lost 10 of 40 competitive fixtures. What exactly does the club expect when star players are moved on? It’s a policy incidentally I have no problem with as long as it’s taken into account when judging the performance of others. Evans knew Jack Marriott would be sold last summer, but he also lost Gwion Edwards and Andrew Hughes which he probably didn’t expect and neither have been replaced by players of similar quality.
I applauded the arrival of Evans 11 months ago and not just because I’d known him and enjoyed his company since he managed Stamford AFC to a United Counties Premier Division title 25 years ago. And not just because he’s a journalist’s dream, a throwback of a boss who doesn’t duck a question or hide behind soundbites, unlike many modern managers.
Posh had been drifting for years. The football had become stale and boring, even if the many Evans’ haters among the Posh fanbase tried to rewrite recent history in an attempt to besmirch the new boss a bit further.
I was looking forward to seeing more passion, more fight, more aggression and, yes, a bit more streetwise play. I wasn’t bothered about a reputation for hoofball that I hadn’t even noticed when he was taking Rotherham United into the Championship, a promotion earned in his only full season at League One, a 100% record he keeps after today’s events.
Last season he had no chance with a bunch of players totally unsuited to his methods. With his own players he would surely have performed better? It’s a shame Posh will not see what many other of his clubs have experienced in the past and that’s a formidable record of improvement over the second half of the season.
I am comfortable with where Posh are in the table. I was confident Posh would outlast Grant McCann’s Doncaster Rovers and finish in the top six and then of course anything could happen. It is only fair to note that this is a far weaker League One than the one with Wigan and Blackburn in it and Posh have been remarkably free of injuries and suspensions this season.
The hoofball tag at the ABAX was an exaggeration, certainly in the early stages of the season, and particularly away from home. Posh played some glorious attacking football at Plymouth and Rochdale and scored great goals at Gillingham and Burton. Longer balls were seen when Posh’s preferred style of football was rumbled and home displays were often grim, but the arrival of Lee Tomlin in January was a sign Evans was trying to adopt a style of football more pleasing on the eye. Or he’d been told to. How ironic that Posh have scored no goals in their last three outings.
Home form was not the only disappointment. The calling out of under-performing players and former managers in post-match press conferences, the excitable ranting from the technical area and the regular run-ins with admittedly useless officials are not a good look for the club, although there had been signs some of those excesses were being worked on. Only last week he promised to lay off officials after a summons arrived from the FA.
The scattergun approach to summer signings was a sight to behold. The arrival of so many players with no experience of League One was a surprise to me, certainly less of a surprise than some of them being moved on already.
Siriki Dembele may still turn to be a good find as might Matt Godden, while Ivan Toney looked a world beater before the new year, but the full-back positions have been filled less convincingly and the regular shuffling of the goalkeepers has been a recipe for disaster.
Posh fielded the biggest back four and goalkeeper I’ve seen in almost 50 years watching Posh. I expected to see lots of 1-0 wins and some expertise in killing games off, neither of which has happened.
None of that would appear to be a sacking offence though. For the reasoning to be explained we will need to wait for Monday’s press conference and the thoughts of chairman Darragh MacAnthony.