Birthdate: 4 October 1948
Birthplace: Bootle, Liverpool, England
Other clubs: Player: Philadelphia Atoms (loan 1973). Fulham (joint-caretaker manager 2000), Crystal Palace (Director of Football 2000-01), Wales (assistant manager 2004-10)
Bought from: Local
Signed for LFC: Joined 1963 - Professional 05.10.1965
Liverpool debut: 16.03.1970
Last appearance: 26.12.1973
Contract expiry: 1974
Win ratio: 36.36% W: 4 D: 5 L: 2
LFC league games/goals: 9 / 0
Total LFC games/goals: 11 / 0
"I first came on the Kop as an eight-year-old, then I played, coached and now I'm the figurehead. It is special because this is the team I've supported and loved all my life. But it isn't Roy Evans team. I'm just shaping its destiny for a while." Significant words from then-manager Roy Evans who was at the club for 33 years.
Bootle-born Roy was an apprentice at Anfield before signing professional forms when he was 17-years-old in October 1965. The defender had to serve a different kind of apprenticeship in Liverpool's reserve team and didn't see a hint of first-team action until nearly the end of the 1969/70 season when Geoff Strong's injury opened the door for him. The Liverpool Echo wanted a quote from the local Evans after he made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Anfield. Evans left quite an impression in print at least when he responded: "When I told my mum I was in the team, she was so surprised she couldn't eat her tea." Shankly told the press that: "this boy Evans has the heart and guts to become another Gerry Byrne." Strong returned in the following game against Everton but was out again for the next two matches in which Evans featured. Ian Ross started the following season as left-back but was replaced by Evans three games in and for four consecutive games Evans was in Shankly's team. Evans couldn't have had a better man to learn from than the great Shankly whom, when Evans first started as a player used to get changed alongside. "Bill and you never had a conversation with him, he just made statements and threw facts at you," Evans said. Black was black and white was white with him. I don't mean he wasn't friendly because he was, he was very friendly towards the younger players, but really you just listened to him. He was so enthusiastic about the game. He would say it's a great day today even if it was raining but you knew what he meant. It meant we were about to play football!" When Shankly decided to experiment with winger Alec Lindsay as a left-back against Newcastle on 12 September 1970 Evans was well and truly out of the first-team picture except for two appearances later on in the season. Evans made no first-team appearances in 1971/72 and 1972/73 and featured for Philadelphia Atoms in USA in the summer of 1973 before playing twice for Liverpool in December in what turned out to be his final season as a player.
Bob Paisley who had just taken over from Shankly offered the 25-year-old somewhat surprisingly a golden opportunity to join the famous Boot Room by taking control of the club's reserve side. John Smith, who was Liverpool's Chairman at the time, made a prediction of Nostradamus' proportions in 1974: "We have not made an appointment for the present but for the future. One day Roy Evans will be our manager." The youngest coach in the Football League proved to be very successful in charge of the reserve team, leading them to victory in the Central league seven times in nine years. When Paisley retired in 1983, Evans was promoted to first-team coach, proving to be of invaluable assistance to Fagan and then Dalglish. Souness arrived in 1991 with Phil Boersma as his right-hand man and Evans was moved one step down in the pecking order. Writing was on the wall for Souness and before the 1993/94 season, Evans was installed as next-in-charge to Souness, obviously being prepared to take over if things didn't work out.
When Roy Evans replaced Graeme Souness as manager on 31 January 1994, fans were quite optimistic that he would turn Liverpool's fortunes around. Evans seemed to bring some order to the mess Souness had left behind. Evans inherited a decent squad of players. Fowler and McManaman were exciting young players who were establishing themselves in the first team and there seemed to be a good blend of youth and experience to carry the club forward. His first full season in charge promised that brighter times were ahead. At the turn of the year his team was in third place with 45 points from 23 games, only one point behind second placed Manchester United. With Collymore signed before the start of the 1995/96 season to join Fowler in a scintillating partnership up front, it heralded two years of at times quite breathtaking football, including the two memorable 4-3 victories over Newcastle at Anfield in successive seasons. Evans was being celebrated at the heart of Liverpool’s revival. His man-management had replaced Souness' autocratic style and Liverpool were playing entertaining football. Supporters were concerned that in between the team was well below average and was unable to carry out their championship threat. In the end the only tangible success came in that 1995 League Cup final at Wembley, where Bolton were beaten 2-1 to record the club’s fifth success in the competition.
It could have been so different. Roy wasn’t as far from bringing the League Championship back to Anfield as some think. His best chance came in the 1996/97 season. Liverpool were in a very strong position after winning at Southampton in the final match of the calendar year but were gradually overhauled by Manchester United, Even then, Liverpool had a chance to regain the top spot the day after United surprisingly lost to Derby County at Old Trafford early in April. After taking the lead against Coventry, they lost the game in the final few minutes in front of a stunned home crowd. The next home match was also lost, more crucially against United. Roy’s time in charge coincided with the rise of “The Spice Boys”, a term given to a group of the club’s players indicating that Evans was maybe too nice to be manager of such a high-profile club and didn’t have full control of some of his players. Team captain John Barnes was unhappy with his teammates. "I had no problem with the Liverpool players modelling but I was concerned with their time-keeping, their lack of respect and casual attitude in training. I ranted and raved at the players to get them going," Barnes said in his autobiography. "I became intense and dissatisfied about practices at Liverpool. Melwood was turning from a training ground into a playground. 'We've really got to get training sorted out,' I often told Roy. I looked at talents like Jamie, Robbie and Macca and felt we could be the best side in the country." United were the thorn in Liverpool’s side during Roy’s time as manager, just as they were for practically every club in the 1990’s. Apart from the near-miss in the championship in 1996/97, the players reserved one of their worst performances under his management for one of the most important matches, the 1996 FA Cup final, remembered as much for the “men in white suits” who didn’t perform once they had changed out of them as it was for Cantona’s late goal.
There is a very thin line between success and failure sometimes. Because of everything that had gone on before in the previous three decades, Liverpool were expected to win trophies. When they dried up in the 1990’s, there was more pressure on the manager than there would have been at other clubs, clubs who would have been overjoyed to finish in the top four at the end of a season and win the occasional cup competition. Roy was probably unlucky that he didn’t win more than just that 1995 League Cup. It certainly wasn’t for the lack of trying on his part. He was never afraid to face the media when things weren’t going to plan and his pride in the job and his enthusiasm and love for the football club he had played for and been associated with for so long were never in doubt. But however hard he had tried, real success by the club’s high standards hadn’t been achieved. As when Evans was promoted to Souness' assistant in 1993, Houllier was brought to the club during the summer of 1998, but Liverpool's Board took it one step further and made him joint-manager. How could two managers control the club, having different ideas how the team was supposed to play? On 12 November 1998, Evans left the club, leaving Houllier in sole charge.
Roy Evans didn't make a big impression on the Liverpool team as player and didn't deliver the title as manager but remains truly one of Liverpool's greatest servants as part of the legendary Boot Room.