OPINION: Is Steve Evans a Judas for walking away from Mansfield Town’s promotion chase?

Steve Evans
Steve Evans

A Judas? Or just a sterotypical football player or manager who will look after number one and show no loyalty to his club - his employer?

Shocked Mansfield Town fans were quick to voice their opinions to the bombshell news on Tuesday evening that manager Steve Evans and his assistant, Paul Raynor, had quit.

Paul Raynor - Pic By James Williamson

Paul Raynor - Pic By James Williamson

Their resignations, reportedly to take over the newly-vacant managerial positions at League One Peterborough United, prompted a natural furore.

For with the Stags fifth in the table and just two points outside the automatic promotion places, Evans and Raynor had seemed perfectly placed to guide the club to its goal of League One football next season.

Steve Evans resigns as Mansfield Town manager

Everything seemed set up for a thrilling last 12 games of the season with the vastly experienced Evans at the helm.

Steve Evans Picture by Dan Westwell

Steve Evans Picture by Dan Westwell

Now, of course, there is a danger that the Stags fans’, players’ and owners’ dreams of promotion could be sunk by the shock news.

Certainly the abrupt loss of their manager will not help the players and it is not hard to see why so many supporters were angry on Tuesday evening, calling Evans a Judas for turning his back on the club.

Of course, there are always two sides to every story.

Yes, you cannot argue against the fact that Evans has, with the tremendous financial support of owner John Radford, built the best team at the Stags for a long time.

Steve Evans greets a fan before kick-off against Barnet.

Steve Evans greets a fan before kick-off against Barnet.

Yes, in his 15 months in charge, Evans has definitely helped to improve the club and he leaves it in a better place than when he arrived in November 2016.

Yes, Evans may not have left for financial reasons, but to join what he sees as a ‘bigger club’ in a higher division.

Yes, we all know that owners of football clubs can sack managers all too easily.

But Evans’ resignation - and the timing of that decision - leaves a sour taste for many, just when everything seemed to be on an even keel at a club well known for its rollercoaster rides.

With the club tantalisingly close to promotion, there appeared to be no doubt how Radford felt about the loss of his manager.

The club’s statement confirming Evans and Raymor’s departure pointedly did not thank Evans for his work during his time at One Call Stadium - and a Facebook post by the owner said: “There are no individuals bigger than Mansfield Town Football Club.”

Radford and his chief executive wife, Carolyn, must feel hugely let down.

They have invested so much time, energy and money into their promotion project. They have backed the colourful Evans to the hilt. Now they must feel like they have been kicked in the...

Even though Evans was not the most popular appointment because of his flamboyant personality on the touchline, his ability to wind up opposition supporters and his running verbal battles with match officials, the Radfords pointed to his successful record in higher divisions and ‘broke the bank’ to persuade their target to drop down to League Two football.

They also successfully persuaded many wavering fans to back Evans and get behind their appointment.

Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans celebrates victory: against Morecambe. Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com.

Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans celebrates victory: against Morecambe. Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com.

Most supporters were prepared to forgive, or at least turn a blind eye, to Evans’ past misdemeanours and his Marmite character if he could deliver League One football.

Nine months ago Radford denied Swindown Town permission to talk to Evans about their vacant manager’s job.

Radford firmly nailed his colours to the mast, again stressing that his manager was part of a big project at the Stags.

For his part Evans appeared to be loyal too, saying: “The reality of it all is that the chairman and chief executive made it very clear to me in my conversations with them that they were not going to sanction any approach for me to be involved in any discussions because they have brought me in to make a big difference to their football club. I have always respected every chairman I worked for. I have always shook hands on things agreed and unless a chairman moves the goalposts, I have always been very very loyal.”

Assuming that Radford has not moved the goalpost - and there is absolutely nothing to suggest he has - then you have to ask the question of Evans, what has changed?

Where is his loyalty now, just because a club on his domestic doorstep has come knocking?

As I said, the Radfords must feel very let down. They probably refused permission again for another club to talk to their manager, leading to Evans’ decision to resign.

I think back to the glory days of winning at Wembley and winning promotion with the last manager to have dropped down from higher divisions to bring his vast experience to the Stags.

Back in the 1980s you could argue that the late Ian Greaves was faced with a similar decision.

Greaves, after protests of support from fans who wanted him to stay, rejected the chance to take over at a bigger club, in that case West Bromwich Albion.

Greaves has since gone down in history as a club legend and the main stand is named after him.

It is hard to think that Evans will be remembered with such fondness by supporters - yet he too could have gone down in the history books as one of the club’s most successful bosses if he had stayed to finish the job.

Now he will be seen by many as a Judas for walking away just 12 matches from a possible promotion - what would have been the 10th of his career, as he often reminded us.

Where was Evans’ loyalty to the Stags cause - loyalty he would no doubt have been demanding from his players when he signed them and offered some of them new deals this week?

What does he think of the timing of his decision so close to the end of the promotion race?

No doubt we will hear from Evans later in the week.

For now, let’s hope the surprising, unwanted upheaval will galvanise fans, players and everyone involved at the club to achieve their dream for the past seven months - promotion to League One.