In November 1998, Roy Evans left Liverpool Football Club after forty years in service as a player, coach and finally manager in 1994 when he took over the Anfield office after Graeme Souness was forced out by the club due to a run of back results.
Evans was a product of Bill Shankly’s bootroom. The boot-room was a system that kept the Shankly tradition at Anfield through the sixties, seventies, eighties and most of the nineties. Players would move into the bootroom after their player careers were over. There, they would be assigned jobs including coaching, scouting and eventually managing.
Evans was brought in just after the midway point of the 1993/94 season. Liverpool were forced to sack his predecessor, Souness after poor performances on the pitch and bringing the club into ”
9m of transfer debt. The club looked to Evans, a long time server of the club and life-long supporter, to save the club’s season.
With sixteen league games to turn things around at Anfield, Evans set to work. His debut game, an away trip to Norwich saw Liverpool get a lively two-all draw. The rest of the season didn’t, however, go as planned with Evans giving Liverpool supporters and board little confidence that he would take Liverpool back to their glory days of League Championships and European Cups. A Merseyside derby win was a big plus to Evans’ season, but results like the defeat by bottom of the table Sheffield United at Anfield meant Evan’s had a tough time in store. Liverpool completed the season with the Spion Kop’s last stand as a seated stand. It was, unfortunately, a bad game by Evans’ Liverpool, losing 1-0 to Norwich. They finished the season in eighth place.
Summer came and with England not in World Cup 1994 in the USA, this gave Evans a chance to build his Liverpool. In came a young Danish goal keeper known as Michael Stengaard, but no other players were brought in to strengthen the team. Again, supporters started to question Evans’ managerial skills. Bookmakers put the reds at 20-1 to achieve winning the Premiership – Liverpool’s worst odds for several decades. Out went goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar and Denmark’s Torben Fiechnik.
The new seasons started. This was where Evans had to show why he should be in the Anfield hot seat. Quickly, players fell out with Evans. Julian Dicks and Don Hutchison were soon sold to West Ham, whilst Mark Wright was relegated to the reserves.
On the pitch, Liverpool started the season well. In one of the first matches after pre-season, Liverpool put six past Crystal Palace before a win that suprised everyone. Liverpool’s young striker, Robbie Fowler, totally killed off Arsenal at Anfield with a hat-trick in less than five minutes. It was a new Premiership record for the quickest hat-trick at the time as the reds thrashed Arsenal 3-0.
Players such as John Barnes and Steve McManaman were enjoying Evans’ new tactics and Liverpool continued their run of form. They did, however, run into a glitch. A draw with West Ham and a defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford started a run of bad league form.
Liverpool eventually finished fourth in the Premiership and fans witnessed Blackburn Rovers beating Manchester United to claim the title at Anfield on the very last day of the season.
Meanwhile, it had been the League Cup that the reds had excelled in that season. After beating Burnley, Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal and Crystal Palace, Evans took Liverpool to Wembley and won his first and last piece of silver wear as Liverpool manager beating Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the final. Evans splashed out ”
8m on Nottingham Forrest’s English striker Stand Collymore who proved to be successful.
The following seasons; 1995/96 and 1997/98 were of mixed fortunes for the club. Evans took them to Wembley again, this time losing in the final of the FA Cup to rivals Manchester United by one goal to nil. Evans took the side, now with big international stars such as Patrik Berger from Dortmund. He had also brought in two bright stars through the youth team. Michael Owen was a young striker who scored on his debut at Selhurst Park, with the reds going down 2-1 to Wimbledon. He then finished top Premiership scorer for the 1997/98 season. Jamie Carragher was a player of several positions. Evans initially started him as a striker before dropping him back to an attacking midfielder role. Evans sold his striker Stan Collymore to Aston Villa for ”
Liverpool weren’t getting anywhere fast and the supporters were getting impatient with Evans. During the summer on 1998 he brought in Frenchman Gerard Houllier to join him in a managerial partnership. The partnership was not a success. Despite a good pre-season and start to the Premiership campaign, Liverpool fell onto a bad run of results including going out of the League Cup 3-1 to Tottenham at Anfield. Evans departed the club, leaving Houllier in sole command.
Profile by Max Munton, June 2001