SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Evans puts his future on hold

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on 10 years ago.

JONNY: MY FUTURE CAN WAIT

JONNY EVANS is putting Sunderland’s Premiership challenge before his own future.

The on-loan Manchester United centre-back netted his first senior goal to help the Black Cats to a 2-0 home win over Hull City on Saturday.

It sparked fresh questions about whether he’d like to stay at the Stadium of Light next season, but the 20-year-old insists his focus is solely on promotion.

Sunderland boss Roy Keane revealed after Saturday’s victory that he had spoken as recently as the end of last week to Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson about the in-form defender.

But Evans said: “I’m not thinking about anything or anywhere else at the moment. Next season will take care of itself. All my mind is on right now is getting Sunderland promoted. “I am really enjoying myself here. It’s a friendly club right through. It was great to get my first senior goal and to score it in front of a big home crowd.

“We probably should have got the second one a bit earlier, but we got the win and we’re still in contention.”

Less than two minutes were on the clock when Evans rose at the far post to head Dean Whitehead’s free-kick emphatically past Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

He had another set-piece header cleared off the line in a dominant first half, but the result was only put beyond doubt in the 90th minute, when substitute Stern Johnson capitalised on Myhill’s miskick.

The Wearsiders also kept their eighth clean sheet on the way to the 13th game unbeaten ahead of next weekend’s international break.

Evans said: “This move was intended to get me experience and it’s working out really well. The whole team is playing with confidence and we’re delighted with the run we’re on.

“Personally, it’s great for me to come up against a striker like Dean Windass for Hull on Saturday. He’s such an experienced player and quite physical. I’ve come up against lots of different kinds of strikers since I came to Sunderland and it’s a great learning experience.

Keane has stressed that he wants his players to take their minds off the promotion race in the next week or so.

The Wearsiders have Darren Ward, Danny Collins (both Wales), Anthony Stokes (Rep of Ireland) and Marton Fulop (Hungary) on international duty this week.

Evans said: “The gaffer wants is to take it easy. A few of the lads are going to have a couple of days out of the country and then hopefully we’ll come back refreshed. The remaining games are going to be mentally testing.

“Everyone knows we have the ability to get into the top two – just look at the fact we got seven points when we played Derby, Birmingham and West Brom – but we have to use this break to prepare for the run-in.”

Sunderland have seven games left and their next test is away to Cardiff on March 31.

BACK IN BUSINESS

Stokes thanks Keane for end to his exile

ANTHONY STOKES thanked Roy Keane for giving him the chance to make up for this late show.

The striker’s two-match exile ended when he was recalled to start Saturday’s 2-0 home Championship win over Hull City.

Stokes was one of three players axed after missing the team bus before it headed to Barnsley the weekend before last.

The £2million Irishman, snapped up from Arsenal in January after a goal-laden loan stint at Falkirk, said: “It was great to be back involved in the squad.

“I’ve worked hard since missing the bus – I’ve been getting into training early and working hard.

“That’s all I could do. It was up to the gaffer after that and I have to thank him for putting my back in.”

Keane has made it clear that the matter was history and that all three players – winger Toby Hysen and keeper Marton Fulop were the others – had served their punishment.

Stokes said: “He told us in no uncertain terms that it’s not acceptable. It was our fault because we did a stupid thing.

“The gaffer’s a fair fella and has not held a grudge. It was a wake-up call for me – it has stopped me being late and I’m working a lot harder in training.

“After he spoke with us, he said that was the end of the matter – if we got our heads and worked hard, we would be back in contention.

“He made it clear that lateness was not acceptable at the club. The standards he is setting here are beyond what they were at the start of the season when we were not winning games.”

Stokes now departs for the Republic of Ireland’s European Championship qualifiers against Wales and Slovakia at Croke Park.

And he leaves a club that laid down another marker in the race for the Premiership, Saturday bringing up a 13th unbeaten game as Hull were beaten by early and late strikes from Jonny Evans and Stern John.

The 18-year-old said: “There is still a lot of work to be done. The seven games left are all vital and we’ll work our socks off.

“I think we’re all confident. We’re doing the business and if we continue that, there’s nothing we can do about the results of the other clubs that are looking for promotion.

“We have to keep giving 100 per cent.”