‘We’ll do what Gary would have wanted’

Times change: Chris Evans with Gary Megson at last week's derby
Times change: Chris Evans with Gary Megson at last week's derby
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owls caretaker manager Chris Evans is calling on the squad’s togetherness and professionalism to keep them on track.

Evans, who has been Gary Megson’s right-hand man, would also like a continuation of the spirit and endeavour that earned the players victory against Sheffield United, when they face Rochdale away tomorrow.

Evans and coach Neil Thompson were placed in charge until Megson’s successor is appointed and they took training yesterday at Middlewood.

The caretaker boss told The Star: “Obviously when the news emerged on Wednesday night it brought a lot of surprise to a lot of people.

“Gary rang me to say he would be leaving the club. Shortly after that I received a call from Paul Aldridge (chief executive) to ask me would I take over in a caretaker capacity until such time as they appointed a new manager.

“From my perspective, I’m contracted to Sheffield Wednesday. I shall act in a professional manner until a new manager is appointed.

“I have have spoken to the football staff about recent events and the short-term future; I’ve also spoken to the senior players and the full squad.

“On Gary’s behalf I have thanked them for all their efforts, efforts for which he is hugely grateful. It was obviously a difficult morning for the players.

“I said to them they need time to reflect, because obviously Gary brought the majority of them to the club, and had worked with all of them. We have been in the top three for most of the season.

“What I said to them is that we are not party to decisions that are made above us but we are obviously subject to them.

“I told them that our objective is one thing only: football.

“I will prepare them in a professional manner for the game at Rochdale, which obviously is very important. They have set themselves good standards and I expect them to be maintained; I told them Gary and I would want them to be focused fully on the next fixture.

“I took them for training with the staff; they have responded, in difficult circumstances, We have got on with it.

“It now requires great togetherness, as we have shown under Gary, and the real spirit we showed in the derby needs to be taken into Saturday’s game.

“I have a duty of care. I have been handed the reins to act responsibly on behalf of Sheffield Wednesday and the players and their families. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”

It is a similar scenario to that which surrounded Alan Irvine’s dismissal and Megson’s apppointment just over a year ago.

Irvine’s assistant Rob Kelly was put in temporary charge by Milan Mandaric until a new manager was hired.

On that occasion the appointment was swift, with Megson arriving the day after Irvine’s exit.Kelly picked the side for one game and was nominally in charge, for a 2-2 draw with MK Dons, though with Megson on the touchline.

Kelly and coach Billy Barr left the following week.

The Owls’ professional duties tomorrow will entail trying not to let down a 2,000 following at Rochdale, who sacked boss Steve Eyre in December and brought in Accrington’s John Coleman.

Wednesday’s line-up is likely to be either the same as or very similar to the one that beat United last Sunday.

Teams and ref

DALE (possible): Kurucz, Darby, Long, Holden, Widdowson, Barry-Murphy, Kennedy, Jones, Adams, Thompson, Symes (4.5-1).

OWLS (possible): Bywater, Buxton, Batth, R Jones, R Johnson, Antonio, Semedo, Lines, Prutton, Madine, O’Grady (4-4-2).

Tony Bates (Staffs): Was in charge of the Owls’ convincing 3-1 win at Scunthorpe in January and the 0-0 draw and penalty shoot-out in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Bradford in August. Has issued 71 bookings in 28 games this season and sent off no-one.

One to watch

Centre-half Kevin Long, a 21-year-old Irishman, has helped to tighten Dale up since being signed on loan from Burnley by their new boss John Coleman, who also gave him three loan spells at Accrington. Rochdale have conceded only three goals in six games under Coleman.

History lesson

A game against Rochdale means the season is back to where it began for Wednesday. They beat Dale 2-0 on the first day of the season with goals from Rob Jones and David Prutton. In February last year they lost 2-1 at Spotland; Gary Madine netted a late consolation.