Evans revels in exhaustive life of a Pompey full-back

Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler
Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

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He’s regarded by team-mates as one of Pompey’s fittest players.

Yet not even that advantageous trait prepared Gareth Evans for life as a Paul Cook full-back.

Gareth Evans celebrates scoring against Blackpool. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gareth Evans celebrates scoring against Blackpool. Picture: Joe Pepler

The former Fleetwood player has started the Blues’ last 35 League Two matches in the unfamiliar role of right-back.

Seeing off the threats of Drew Talbot, Adam Buxton and Aaron Simpson, Evans has established himself as a member of the most miserly defence in the division.

As Ben Davies and Enda Stevens can testify, however, the full-back role in a Cook side is not conventional.

Evans is expected to power forwards to support his team in attack at every opportunity, an aspect of the job he relishes.

In the full-back role under the gaffer you have to get forward as much as you get back, so you don’t have much choice than to be fit!

Gareth Evans

Such has been the outstanding effectiveness of the current incumbents, Evans is joint-top assist-maker with Kal Naismith, while Stevens is third.

But it remains an exhaustive responsibility – particularly for the 28-year-old.

Evans said: ‘It has always been part of my game to run around but only recently I had a chat with some of the backroom lads about how tough it is actually playing full-back in terms of the workload.

‘With the midfield position I was playing last season, I felt I was doing a hell of a lot of running because you have to go forward and back to help out defensively.

‘I didn’t really take into account the fact the full-back was constantly up and down as well!

‘In addition, a full-back doesn’t often get subbed, so nearly every game you are playing 90 minutes unless you get an injury or are having an absolute beast and not playing well.

‘As an attacking player, if you don’t score after 70 minutes you can half expect when the board goes up you are coming off but as a full-back it doesn’t work like that.

‘A while ago I totalled more minutes than I did last season – and there’s still six games to go.

‘I think I am quite a fit lad and don’t tend to get that tired.

‘In the full-back role under the gaffer you have to get forward as much as you get back, so you don’t have much choice than to be fit!’

Evans didn’t play a minute of Pompey’s pre-season friendly programme as he recovered from knee and ankle ligament damage.

His only involvement was as an unused substitute in the eighth and final summer fixture at Bristol City.

Evans eventually made his comeback at Coventry in August’s EFL Cup tie.

Yet he has been an ever-present since lining-up at Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy on August 30, either starting or coming off the bench.

Evans added: ‘Coming back from injury during the summer I was working on my fitness four days a week, so didn’t get much a rest during the close season.

‘Everyone was saying that missing pre-season would be difficult physically and, to be fair, for the first few games that is I probably how I found it.

‘But even if you do a pre-season, the first few games are a struggle physically with fitness.

‘I have been alright. I think natural fitness has got me through.’