All bets are off in Norwich City’s Championship promotion push

Steve Evans knows what it takes in the Championship after spells at Rotherham and Leeds. Photo: Dave

Steve Evans knows what it takes in the Championship after spells at Rotherham and Leeds. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Steve Evans knows better than most what it takes to cut it in the Championship. The ex-Rotherham and Leeds chief tells Paddy Davitt why Newcastle's coronation is a touch premature.

Steve Evans insists his recent experience at Leeds United illustrates it may be unwise to already crown Newcastle United as the Championship's 'Invincibles'.

Rafa Benitez's nous and Mike Ashley's wallet have prompted many to suggest the Magpies will turn this season's promotion race into a procession. The swift summer signings of former Crystal Palace striker Dwight Gayle and Bournemouth's Scottish international Matt Ritchie look like an early signal of intent on Tyneside.

The wily Evans, however, is quick to caution enduring struggles at another northern powerhouse striving to re-capture former glories is a pertinent reminder.

Evans swapped the more tranquil waters of Rotherham for Yorkshire neighbours Leeds in October 2015, before Massimo Cellino opted to bring in Garry Monk in the latest attempt to crack the top six for the former European Cup finalists.

'I have just recently left a club, called Leeds United, who when they went down to the Championship after being in the Premier League people were saying would come straight back but as it has proved it is a lot harder,' he says. 'Newcastle have spent over £20m and that obviously gives them better players to give them a chance. For me, I think there will be others clubs who are equipped to challenge but of course you would expect Newcastle to be up there and likewise Norwich. There are probably eight or nine teams who realistically will expect to challenge. Then, like in the past, it is how well can you stay the course or who gets a break in the box at the right time.

'There is real serious competition and has been for a number of years. I don't think there is any team that I would label the favourite. I always say you have to look after about 12 games and see where you are going to be, going forward. With not being able to make loan signings outside the windows now that might change things. What you have come September 1 you have until January and that is it until you can change it again.'

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Evans acknowledges this latest incarnation of the Championship resembles a clone of the top flight, with the relegated Premier League trio joining such luminaries like his old club, Nottingham Forest and last season's beaten play-off finalists Sheffield Wednesday all scrapping for the same goal in the second tier.

'My view, speaking to people in the game, is not if but when the Championship is almost presented as a 'Premier League Two'. It is vitally strong now,' he said. 'If you look at the giants in the league you have got Norwich, Newcastle, Villa, Leeds. There are some huge football clubs in there, Birmingham City, another one, with a derby now against Villa. You have the East Anglian derby as well. Brighton have been fantastic the last couple of seasons. The top six is going to take a bit of achieving. There is not going to be any runaway leaders, I can guarantee of that.

'If I had stayed at Leeds I made it absolutely clear I would deliver the play-offs. I addressed the owner and the players and said if we are going to aim for that we have to be in and around it all season.'

Evans is adamant City's rivals will not relish trips to Carrow Road.

'I have taken teams to play Norwich a few times in my career now and it is a fantastic place to go,' he says. 'It is a fantastic squad of players. They were always going to lose a player or two, because some players will look at it and feel they want to play in the Premier League and the highest level. I am sure Alex will look to spend some money between now and when the season looks to get underway.'

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