Football: End to Evans' reign at Anfield

Curtain falls on Boot Room tradition at Liverpool as chairman puts Houllier in full control
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ROY EVANS last night left Liverpool after talks about his position as joint manager with the club's chairman, David Moores. Evans, who has worked at Anfield for 33 years, and Moores negotiated severance terms after the former declined any role under his former partner and now to be manager, Gerard Houllier.

The Frenchman is expected to name countryman Patrice Bergues, a former Lens and France youth coach, as his new No 2 before Saturday's home match against Leeds United. Bergues will replace the assistant manager, Doug Livermore, who is also leaving.

Last night the Liverpool Echo, the evening newspaper covering Merseyside, ran the front page banner headline "Evans set to quit", while the man himself revealed the pressure of the criticism being aimed at him was beginning to make the job untenable.

"The speculation has been very difficult to live with," he said. "Seeing the club suffer affects me badly."

Moores, a close friend, is unhappy to lose Evans and is believed to have been behind last summer's compromise that installed Houllier in an equal capacity. However, successive home defeats and supporters' anger persuaded him that the time is right for a change. Evans did not resign, but left by mutual consent, so he is entitled to receive a healthy pay- off.

Friends of Evans, who was appointed manager in succession to Graeme Souness in 1994,will not be surprised that he wanted to sever his ties with the club completely. Talk of a director of football post or looking after the club's academy did not appeal and there are powerful voices within the club who thought a total split was best.

There is a feeling within Liverpool that the club had to break with the old Boot Room tradition after Graeme Souness and Evans have tried and been perceived to have failed - each winning one trophy. The same policy also counted against the former player and assistant manager, Livermore, who was involved in another dual management set-up. He shared control at Tottenham with Ray Clemence in the 1992-93 season, but the pair were replaced by Ossie Ardiles the following season.

There had been speculation about Evans' position since Houllier's appointment, but it escalated to an unacceptable level after Tuesday's limp 3-1 Worthington Cup defeat by Tottenham Hotspur, a club who had never scored three goals at Anfield before.

Evans was defiant afterwards, emphasising the need for the club to strengthen a leaking defence. "The urgency to sign a centre-back has been there," he said. "It's not as if it's new on the agenda. But it has become more and more imperative. We may be looking for something that isn't there, we might have to find an alternative to what we have got."

Instead Liverpool want an alternative, more conventional managerial structure and it will be Houllier who will continue the hunt for a player around which the defence will form. He may turn his attention to Leeds' Lucas Radebe, who is involved in a contract dispute with the Elland Road club and has already attracted the interest of Ruud Gullit at Newcastle with a pounds 6m fee being floated.

But the Leeds manager, David O'Leary, has said he will not sell the South African even if it means the defender walks away from the club at the end of the season for nothing under the Bosman ruling.

Liverpool have watched dozens of central defenders at home and abroad for months since the retirement of Mark Wright and the sale of Neil Ruddock to West Ham. With Phil Babb injured and the current makeshift partnership of Jamie Carragher and Steve Staunton looking vulnerable in the air, the need is pressing.

A key date for the club is their annual meeting on Thursday 19 November, when the management situation is still sure to be a major issue.

Since Liverpool went to the top of the table on 9 September, they have only managed victories against Fulham, Kosice in the Uefa Cup and Nottingham Forest in the Premiership. They are now in an unaccustomed position in the bottom half of the Premiership and any revival has been undermined by injury.

Steve McManaman missed Tuesday's match with a recurring Achilles complaint, while Michael Owen, who scored against Spurs, has a hamstring injury. Owen fell down in pain after stretching to shoot with his left foot into an open net in the 81st minute. He was helped off the pitch and watched the rest of the match holding an ice pack to his hamstring.

The full extent of Owen's injury was not immediately clear but the teenage striker is very likely to miss Saturday's Premiership game against Leeds and England's international friendly match against the Czech Republic at Wembley next Wednesday.

Evans the man, page 30