Rotherham United: Hugs and mugs as Steve Evans and Tony Stewart part company

Steve Evans at Birmingham
Steve Evans at Birmingham

Tony Stewart suggested their time together could be up and Steve Evans agreed.

Then the chairman of Rotherham United and the boss about to become their former manager did what two men do when they have insurmountable differences.

Tony Stewart and Steve Evans

Tony Stewart and Steve Evans

They shared a drink.

“It was a bit surreal,” Evans said. “We had a couple of mugs of coffee and talked about the game this Friday against Burnley. We embraced. There was a hug and a few tears.

“It was the right decision for Steve Evans and the right decision for Tony Stewart and his club.

“There was no big row or huff. There was such respect between us. Tony Stewart has been a great man to work for and I leave behind a true friend.”

Evans had gone in to their routine Monday-morning meeting with no inkling of what was to come after a three-and-a-half year reign which brought two promotions and Championship survival, although he hinted that things behind the scenes had been strained in the last couple of weeks.

Neither man is going public on the specifics of their need to move in “different directions”, but the decision was made quickly.

“The chairman just said ‘I think this might be it for us’ and I replied ‘I think you’re right,” Evans revealed.

He plans to bid personal farewells to his players, but will wait until they have faced the Clarets under stand-in boss Eric Black in their Championship clash two days from now.

“The focus has to be on them and winning three points,” he said. “It would be inapprpriate of me to contact them before then.”

He didn’t know he was saying goodbye to supporters at the time, but his celebration with fans after the 2-0 win at Birmingham City turned out to be a fitting end to his time in charge.

It was a long time since the Millers boss had cavorted so joyfully in front of the travelling faithful at the final whistle.

But two successive victories had taken his side out of the Championship drop zone and within touching distance of midtable - a far cry from the obscurity of League Two when he took over late in the 2011/2012 season.

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“There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to adequately describe how I feel about the people of Rotherham.” he said. “They’ve been incredible. I’m a Miller. Wherever I end up, I’ll always be a Miller.”

Monday would see his shock departure, but Saturday afternoon, at St Andrew’s, around 4.50pm, was all about thumping his chest, acknowledging the badge and leading the communal Millers delight.

Just as he had done so often during 172 games in charge which brought 71 wins, 45 draws and 56 defeats.

The 52-year-old confessed he was saddened by his exit, but said he woke up in his family home in Peterborough the following morning, padded downstairs, had a swim and thought: ‘The world’s still alive for Steve Evans’.

He admitted that, like any other out-of-work manager, he’s now waiting for the phone to ring.

Yet he also know what three seasons of achievement - described, he says, by his ex-chairman and pal for life as “unparalleled” - means for his job prospects.

“If you’re a chairman and you want a manager to win you promotion, what do you do?” he asked.

“Appoint Steve Evans and put your kettle on.”