Rotherham United: Evans puts in summer shift

Steve Evans
Steve Evans
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No manager in English football has been more successful than Steve Evans in the last four years.

And over the summer no boss has been busier either.

Since the Millers won promotion to the Championship in the League One Play-off Final at Wembley, he has brought in 10 players.

That makes 11 new signings in total as midfielder Connor Newton left Newcastle United for New York Stadium on the eve of the Wembley showdown with Leyton Orient.

Evans, with four promotions in four seasons behind him, wanted to act fast – and he had to.

Because of how efficiently the club are run these days, their retained list consisted of just 11 names.

That wasn’t such so much a problem as the product of good planning. No dead wood, no long contracts, no players the club didn’t want hanging around just picking up a wage.

The club were just 11 weeks away from life in the second tier and Adam Collin, Richard Brindley, Craig Morgan, Joe Skarz, Lee Frecklington, Michael Tidser, Ben Pringle, Kieran Agard, Robert Milsom Alex Revell and Newton were the only players on board.

But one of things chairman Tony Stewart admires about Evans is how he prepares early. The manager knew who he wanted and recruitment plans were already in place.

Fast forward six weeks and another 12 names have been added.

Matt Derbyshire, Scott Loach, Kirk Broadfoot, Jordan Bowery, Mat Sadler, Richard Wood, Ryan Hall, Frazer Richardson, Febian Brandy and Paul Green have all arrived.

And right-back Mark Bradley, sidelined after knee surgery, and that prince of players, centre-half Kari Arnason, have signed new deals.

Evans has been true to his word too. He promised to go for young, hungry types desperate to prove themselves and came up with Loach and Newton and broke the club’s transfer record to land Jordan Bowery.

He pledged to bring in experienced players with proven Championship pedigrees. Enter Derbyshire, Loach (again), Wood, Richardson and Green.

He’s also taken a couple of punts. An eyebrow might have been raised in some quarters when he gave Bramall Lane misfit Febian Brandy a contract and two certainly were when Ryan Hall arrived after disciplinary problems at Leeds.

But the potential of neither winger is in doubt, Evans has a knack of wringing from players performances that other managers don’t and Hall’s deal is heavily incentivised, relying on him making the first team before the club start paying out.

If just one of the two comes off, Evans has got the best of that bargain.

Of all the new signings, Bowery is perhaps the most intriguing. He caught the eye as a young centre-forward at Chesterfield before moving to the Premier League for £500,000 to Aston Villa.

No goals in 22 games might seem to tell their own story, but only six of those matches were starts. The word from observers in the Midlands is this is a very good player who went to the top flight too early and might just find his feet in a big way in the Championship.

And he’s only just turned 23, remember.

So, excluding development players like Mitch Rose and Danny Rowe, Evans now has 23 players at his disposal. There are more to come, but not many. Most of Rotherham’s business is done now. Evans likes a tight, balanced squad with everyone competing for a place and none of the disaffected “bad apples” he so detests.

The club are ready to smash their transfer record again to land the extra striker Evans wants.

Although they’re not saying who, we’re talking about a young yet proven goalscorer. Brett Pitman, Ishmael Miller and Gwion Edwards have all been ruled out, but 21-year-old Stevie May, who averages more than a goal every other goal in Scotland and has turned down a new contract at St Johnstone, is a name that has long tantalised supporters.

Whatever happens, the club, despite the departure of League One loan stars James Taverner and Richard Smallwood and the loss of striker Wes Thomas to Birmingham City, will be a far stronger outfit at the start of the Championship campaign than the one which finished the League One season so gloriously.

All in a few weeks’ work for Evans.