Rotherham FanZoner Niall Geoghegan is trying to get his head around the club appointing Steve Evans.
Lower league baddie joins Millers
Last week it was announced that we'd appointed controversial Crawley boss Steve Evans as our new manager on a three year deal. Here's my take on the news.
My first reaction was one of hurt, as it dawned on me that we were seemingly tarnishing the brilliance of our sublime new stadium with a much-loathed figure who always seems to court controversy and relishes being despised. As I said in my last blog, I thought it was imperative that we made an appointment that didn't divide supporters as we moved into the most important years of our existence.
Given the response on the messageboards when Evans' name was circulated as a possible appointment, I thought he'd be an incredibly divisive choice, with some fans convinced that he'd be guaranteed to produce a winning side and some fans unwilling to accept that we should accept a belligerent buffoon as our new boss just because he'd had a few successful years throwing cash at the lower leagues.
What I didn't note was that it was imperative that we appointed a man who you'd be happy to act as the spearhead of your football club, but, in truth, it never crossed my mind that we wouldn't. That meant that when Evans was appointed I was quite disheartened, quite dejected. I thought it was completely wrong that a man with the reputation of Evans was considered to be worthy of taking what was a really attractive job and one in which we were apparently inundated with top-notch applicants.
In terms of dividing fans, in hindsight I'm not sure we'll have too much of a problem. Since the news filtered through, 95% of our fans seem to have taken on the viewpoint that as our chairman has made the decision that Evans is the right man for the job, we should wholeheartedly support the decision and get behind the fiery Scot.
To me, it seems strange that the same people who loathed Evans when he was at Crawley are comfortable with singing his name because he's now in charge, but maybe it's healthier for the club if people sweep his past under the carpet and accept him. After all, we don't want a repeat of the witch-hunts against Evans' predecessors Ronnie Moore and Andy Scott.
Me? I feel a bit uncomfortable with it all. Evans' background in regard to his misdemeanours at Boston is quite well-documented but it's not even that that I dwell on when being wary of his appointment. It's his actions since being back in the dugout (and the spotlight) at Crawley that concern me: the players brawling, the touchline bans, the disparaging comments from opposition managers who he'd deliberately attempted to rile.
I know it all may be gamesmanship and maybe he's the sort of bloke you love if he's on your side, but the level of disdain for Evans from supporters and opposition members of staff alike concerns me. It doesn't seem to be a case of 'ooh, he ruffles a few feathers that bloke', but rather 'he's an utterly revolting human being'. I hope, to some degree, Evans gets his head down with us and lets our football do the talking.
But further to his personal issues, Evans' appointment again emphasised to me how much my belief of what the club should be and what it should aspire to be are in such stark contrast with our chairman Tony Stewart's views. I wanted us to take this opportunity to reinvent ourselves as a club, to create a self-sustaining business model that we could be proud of. I wanted us to appoint a director of football, an old head who could oversee everything that happens at the club, whilst giving the on-field duties to a young, progressive coach.
I wanted our fans to be educated about the philosophy of football we were going to be playing, like Swansea's fans have been educated by Brendan Rodgers, and to realise that patience is a virtue. But what we've gone and got is Evans, a blood and guts, in your face, results-driven manager. He's not someone you'd consider likely to change the philosophy of the club in the way that Brendan Rodgers has at Swansea, and for all he's demonstrated he can aid talented players in their progression through the leagues (as seen with strikers Matt Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett, amongst others), he'd probably admit himself he's more 'manager' than 'coach'.
But then blood and guts and instant success is all our chairman is interested in. Ronnie Moore was sacked because his side hit a slump of form that indicated we weren't going to achieve automatic promotion. Twelve months later, Andy Scott was sacked because it became increasingly apparent that we weren't going to make the play-offs. Stewart talks of progression and laying foundations but the reality is that he wants instant results and if those results don't look like coming he'll change the manager until he gets it. Evans, for all his impressive, warm and passionate discourse thus far concerning the club's future and where he sees Rotherham United being in five years time, won't be immune from that if we're not in the top 3 come 2013.
Moreover, one overriding viewpoint of the supporters that has surfaced since Evans' appointment seems to be an attitude of 'it's about time we stopped being nice, realised that to be successful you have to be dirty and embraced the appointment of a man who seems likely to bring this success, even if it comes with some dirt'. It seems that after years of crippling disappointments, hoping against hope for some success, many of our supporters are sick to the teeth of being the worst club in South Yorkshire and now simply want a winning team at any cost.
Tony Stewart, who barring a minor miracle is set to see the club play a fourth consecutive season in the basement decision under his ownership, seems to be thinking along the same lines. Personally, I've never been that bothered about losing, I've always believed that football is about much more than the result on the day and have always been of the opinion that losing matches merely makes winning more satisfying, but - quite reasonably - many people around the club think differently.
But now I'm thinking that I should stop moaning and get on with it. As I spit my dummy out over the appointment of a manager who seemed likely to lead his side to a second consecutive promotion (big budget or not), I consider what it must feel like to be a Darlington fan at the moment. We're on the verge of what could be a hugely successful few years for the club and it'll take more than the appointment of a lower-league baddie to make me curb my excitement, even if my views on what we should be as a club don't entirely agree with those who have the power to actually implement changes.
Whatever happens, I'm sure it'll be eventful. As Evans himself said, it's time for everyone at RUFC to buckle themselves up for a rollercoaster ride.