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The Big Interview with former Bolton Wanderers assistant manager Chris Evans
One-time Minsterman Chris Evans is better placed than most to pass judgement on York City’s chances of FA Cup third round success. DAVE FLETT talks to the former Bolton assistant boss.
FORMER Bolton Wanderers assistant manager Chris Evans reckons England internationals Kevin Davies and Gary Cahill could prove York City’s toughest adversaries at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday.
Evans, who spent four seasons as a player with City from 1982 to 1985, holds the pair in high esteem having worked with them during three years on Gary Megson’s coaching staff at the top-flight Lancashire club.
Striker Davies won his first England cap this season at the age of 33, while centre-back Cahill is fast establishing himself as a regular in Fabio Capello’s Three Lions squad.
Should Trotters boss Owen Coyle opt for a full-strength line-up in this weekend’s tie and select both players, then Evans believes a tough task for the Minstermen will become that little bit more difficult.
About Davies, who Bolton signed on a free transfer from Southampton in 2003, Evans said: “He’s the team’s key player and has been for the last few years.
“He’s the captain and hugely influential as a person and a player. He’s outstanding aerially and gives Bolton the option of starting from deep and playing the long ball up to him because he’s so incredibly strong and can hold it up.
“I was pleased when he got his England cap and it was overdue really. He’s been very consistent over the years and is an orthodox English striker.
“People talk about his physicality but not many know that he’s the most fouled-against player in the Premier League. He takes more knocks than anybody else, but just dusts himself down without moaning and he’s also got a good goalscoring record.”
Evans, himself, recommended signing Cahill at the age of 22, having seen him come up through the ranks at Aston Villa during his work with Wolves’ youth team.
Having seen Cahill’s emergence into an international standard defender, Evans now feels there are few better in his position in the country, adding: “People know about Kevin Davies and the team also has good width but the two centre backs are a big strength too.
“Gary Cahill is as good a defender as there is in the Premier League. We took a chance on his potential as a young lad but he’s quick, strong and can head the ball.
“He’s still only 25 and I feel he is the future of this country. Both Gary and his centre-back partner Zat Knight are mobile too and, while they don’t particularly like to play the ball about, they are good traditional defenders.”
Twelve months ago, Evans took caretaker charge of Bolton for one match prior to Coyle’s appointment – a 4-0 FA Cup home victory over Lincoln.
Unlike so many Premier League chiefs, the Rhondda-born Welshman treated the competition and Bolton’s lower league opponents with respect by making just three changes to his starting line-up.
With the Lancashire side currently punching their weight at the top end of the table, Evans also believes Coyle might adopt a similar approach on Saturday, saying: “Surviving in the Premier League has become a priority at the expense of the FA Cup and success for Bolton has been staying up there for ten years.
“Now they are near the top, however, Owen Coyle might fancy a serious go at reaching Wembley.
“I love the competition and, against Lincoln last season, I told the players they had to approach the game in the same manner as if they were playing Arsenal because, if you don’t, you cause yourselves problems.
“I wanted a positive boost when I took charge because the club had just lost their manager and I knew we could not afford to slip up against Lincoln. I decided to go full strength and we got the result we wanted.”
Despite being relieved of his coaching duties at the Reebok shortly after Megson’s departure, Evans has nothing but praise for the club and Coyle.
Bulgarian international Martin Petrov and USA midfielder Stuart Holden are the only significant additions to the Bolton squad over the past 12 months and Evans is pleased to see virtually the same group of players he helped assemble fulfilling their potential.
He added: “They are enjoying a terrific season and Owen Coyle has gelled them into a side that that is brimming with confidence. It’s great to see those signings coming to fruition.
“They have got quality in the side and have established a real togetherness. There is a feelgood factor about the club and Owen is getting the best out of them.”
Evans, along with Megson, has spent the last year on gardening leave but has put that time to good use, following the example of his sons – both University of York graduates – by studying for a degree in applied management for managers at Warwick, which covers modules such as marketing, media relations, stress management and psychology.
He has also added to his unbelievably extensive and comprehensive stack of player dossiers.
“I’ve been keeping busy and have been going to three or four games a week, to study teams and players,” Evans told The Press. “I have studied and compiled detailed reports on every player in the Premier League and Championship.
“I also know a lot in Europe and am two-thirds through the rest in League One and League Two. Somebody once told me it’s a weakness not to know every player in the country.
“I don’t know them all yet but I know a hell of a lot of them, including information on their background, personalities, injury records, pace, stamina, physiological make-up and technical ability because I feel the future has to be knowledge of this core product. In my opinion, football is all about recruitment and bringing in better players than the ones you decide to replace.
“With that in mind, we set up a UK, European and worldwide scouting network at Bolton that, hopefully, the club is still benefiting from. Success comes from knowing something other people don’t and the only way to get to know about more players is by getting off your backside.”
Wolverhampton-based Evans, whose gardening leave came to an end with the arrival of the New Year, is now waiting for his next challenge in the game, having spent 16 years on Wolves’ coaching staff prior to being head-hunted by Bolton.
Now 48, he does not rule out teaming up with Megson again or even having a stab at management himself, saying: “I want to get back into the game and can’t wait for that to happen.
“I’ve done virtually every job in a football club and would never say never to becoming a full-time manager. I’ve been involved in the game for 31 years and would dearly love to be involved for another 30 years.
“I’m ready for the next challenge and am as comfortable about being a number one as I would be about being a number two or even a number 22. If I’m working with the first team then fine, but if I’m coaching eight, nine and ten-year-olds then that’s also great because it’s all part of football’s bigger picture. There are a lot of people desperately looking for jobs and a hell of a lot of talent out there because everybody wants to stay in the game.
“Being on gardening leave, people say your lawn should be looking great. Mine isn’t though. It’s still full of nettles because the only grass I’m interested in is the stuff that has two goal posts at either end.”
You’ve read his thoughts on Kevin Davies and Gary Cahill, now Chris Evans delivers his verdict on Bolton’s best of the rest...
• Jussi Jaaskelainen (goalkeeper) – has been one of the best ’keepers in the Premier League for 12 years now and rarely drops below a certain standard.
• Gretar Rafn Steinsson (right-back) – now an established top-flight right back. Decent aerially, he stays a bit deeper as opposed to pushing on but provides good support from behind for Lee.
• Zat Knight (centre-back) – a good size and, like defensive partner Cahill, can head the ball in both boxes.
• Paul Robinson (left-back) – experienced player who has put a consistent run of games together.
• Chung-Yong Lee (right wing) – he’s done really well since coming to this country. He’s got good feet, a strong aerobic capacity, quality in his deliveries into the box and can get you a goal.
• Fabrice Muamba (midfield) – screens the back four and breaks play up. He can also run all day.
• Stuart Holden (midfield) – a bit more lightweight than Muamba but has good feet, can handle a football and is able to arrive late in the box.
• Mark Davies (midfield) – not the biggest player either but, like Holden, is technically gifted and can run with the ball.
• Matthew Taylor (left wing) – a dead-ball specialist who has a phenomenal left foot, offering good deliveries from crosses and free-kicks.
• Martin Petrov – (left wing) – has good balance and is a potential match winner.
• Johan Elmander (striker) – he’s a good size, has got a bit of pace and is starting to score goals from the chances he gets. Good goalscorers like him will always cause problems.