The Pompey success story of triallist Wayne Evans

Then-triallist Gareth Evans in action against the Hawks in July 2015
Then-triallist Gareth Evans in action against the Hawks in July 2015
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The mysterious figure of Wayne Evans was cast in Paul Cook’s opening Pompey show.

Non-league Hawks formed the opponents to the new boss’ line-up, a side packed with eager triallists and players already secured to Fratton Park.

The identities of the unfamiliar Blues faces were helpfully revealed pre-match, courtesy of Sharpie-induced scrawling across a white piece of A4 paper.

Delivered from the dressing room pre-match, it was passed around the gathered media at Westleigh Park, a priceless contribution in covering proceedings for the July 2015 encounter.

Among the substitutes was Ben Davies, a figure already revealed by The News as training with Pompey following his release from Sheffield United.

Joining him on the bench was ex-Derby striker Theo Robinson and a player merely listed as ‘Tollett’. It turned out Callum Hassan was also present, but the team sheet lacked space to include his name.

As for the starting XI, there was ‘Brandon Haustapp’ and ‘Kyle Naismith’, clearly stumbling references to two current players, while Connor Randall was trialling from Liverpool.

Then there was ‘Wayne Evans’, a character unable to be pinpointed through Google or Soccerbase, yet trusted to face the Hawks during the pre-season opener.

Following a 1-1 draw, the midfielder was unmasked as Gareth Evans. The search engines fired up after learning such crucial information.

The former Fleetwood man is now entering his fourth Pompey season, with 130 appearances and 19 goals for the club.

Incidentally, during the last 11 years, no player has featured more for the Blues.

As it stands, Kenny Jackett has yet to field a triallist in Pompey competition during his time as boss.

There were no such guest outings in seven pre-season matches last summer, while ahead of an opening friendly at Cork on Monday night, there presently doesn’t appear to be anyone in the building to alter that statistic.

Still, what happened to those other triallists from that July 2015 friendly with the Hawks?

Evans was awarded an initial 12-month deal with an option following four summer outings, with Davies soon following.

The former Derby man earned his short-term contract on the eve of the 2015-16 campaign, going on to make 51 appearances, scoring once.

A massively popular figure at right-back, he was runner-up to Michael Doyle for The News/Sport Mail’s Player of the Season, while reaped five awards from various support groups.

In the summer of 2016, having been unable to agree a long-term deal, the veteran departed for Grimsby, where he remained until his release at the end of last season.

Ben Tollitt signed a two-year deal shortly after that Hawks friendly, going on to make 18 Blues appearances, scoring once.

The winger stayed at Fratton Park until sold to Tranmere in September 2016, where his encouraging progress has been checked by injury, with 30 appearances and six goals.

Pompey opted against taking right-back Connor Randall on loan from Liverpool after that Hawks encounter, yet in April 2016 he gained a first Premier League start.

Now aged 22, he spent last season on loan at Hearts, making 27 appearances, and remains contracted at Anfield until the summer of 2019.

Theo Robinson went on to Motherwell, Port Vale and Lincoln, before settling at Southend and netting nine goals in 48 games. He was released at the end of last season.

Finally, Callum Hassan dropped back into non-league football with Kidderminster, Telford, Witton Albion and West Auckland.

Perhaps a new Wayne Evans will be unearthed this pre-season – alternatively a Gareth Evans.

Or maybe, just maybe, another Eugen Bopp.