When Gareth Evans joined Bradford City, he became Stuart McCall’s second cash transfer when he joined for £35,000 from Macclesfield Town. At the time of signing, Evans epitomised everything that Bradford City needed to become. Following the 'not so nearly' season of 2008/09 when big spending and big players failed to produce, the cost cutting the club embarked upon meant the manager would be shopping at Asda rather than Waitrose. Evans, though, having just over 80 appearances and 19 goals to his name, was young and most importantly experienced. He was the cheap replacement for the expensive flops.
However, as Evans comes towards the end of his two year deal, he has come in for some, arguably warranted, criticism. Everyone knows a striker’s job is to score goals, and in 60 appearances for the club, Evans has scored a meagre 14 goals. 3 of those came in the last 6 games of last season when under no pressure, and just 4 have come this season. It could be argued that Evans, though, is a victim of his own versatility.
When McCall signed Evans from Macclesfield, he stated he could play up front or as a winger, both left and right. From the start Evans was earmarked for a filling in role. He joined the club with high expectations; he was wanted elsewhere in League Two, most notably by Peter Jackson at Lincoln. Peter Thorne had just completed another season and it wasn't clear as to whether he would be staying on. Evans was coming in to be his replacement, to get the 15-20 goals a main striker needs.
Unfortunately he has not come close.
And now he is starting to get the stick that strikers get when they don't score. Over the past few weeks, many things have been labelled at Evans. A lack of composure, a poor first touch, no footballing brain. All traits which he unfortunately displays with an alarming regularity.
Evans' supporters would point to the fact that you never get less than 110% from him. A bundle of energy, pace and commitment. All excellent attributes. But it comes to a point whereby effort is not enough. City fans have suffered for 10 years, and now the patience is wearing thin. We want out of League Two and a striker who fails to hit the net is not going to last long.
But this is where Evans may suffer from his own versatility. He came as a striker, and started playing at City as a striker. But the more he has played, the less he has scored, and the more he has been used as a winger. Many games Evans is deployed as a winger rather than a striker, and while still expected to chip in with goals, his job is then to produce. And in his year and a half with the club, he has contributed 11 assists. A sizeable amount.
Perhaps it is time Evans nailed down a permanent position. For his benefit and the teams benefit and we may finally see a player prosper with the full backing of the crowd.