Wolverhampton Wanderers: 1967-68
Aston Villa: 1972-75
South Melbourne: 1978-82
Morwell Falcons: 1983
Alun Evans can regularly be found alongside other pieces of football trivia, being traded between Kopites over a few pre-match bevvies, sat on the wall outside the Sandon Pub. Seldom has a petrol station parapet been such a philosophical fulcrum of football musings, fuelled by multipack cans of Red Stripe, but I digress. Evans is one of the earliest ‘wonderkid’ teenagers who didn’t reach the dizzy heights of their early billing.
Indeed, a few months before his transfer to Merseyside from his hometown team Wolves, Liverpool captain Ron Yeats - Shankley’s perennial colossus - had struggled to keep up with Evans and he scored Wolves’ solitary goal in a 2-1 Liverpool victory. A few months later Liverpool stumped up £100,000 for the then 19-year-old Evans, making him Britain's most expensive teenager after only one season in the First Division. Of course this kind of practice is common in today’s game, where younger players now command a greater transfer premium as longer term investments. Shankly had held an unwavering belief in Evans’ potential, even going as far to compare him with the great Denis Law, but Evans’ signing represented an inherent focus on youth that . He joined that season alongside 21 year old Alec Lindsay from Bury - the scorer of Wembley’s best ever (wrongly) disallowed goal in the 1974 FA Cup Final (seriously, check it out) - and the promotion of Brian Hall from the under 23s. The previous two seasons had also seen the incoming transfers of an 18 year old Ray Clemence from Scunthorpe and a 19 year old Emlyn Hughes. Evans was to be the talisman spearheading this progressive Liverpool side, bursting at the seams with burgeoning, youthful talent and his Merseyside career started perfectly. A goal ten minutes into his debut against Leicester was followed by two more a week later on his return to Molineux in a 6-0 rout of his former club.
Liverpool were a team in transition, an ageing Roger Hunt soon departed and Evans seemed the ideal candidate to replace the 1966 World Cup Winner. Sadly, a modest goal record in the 1969/70 season, with 9 in 25 games, saw Evans seemingly struggle to deal with the expectation placed on very young shoulders. The onset of the following season seemed to herald a new dawn for Evans, scoring five goals in his first six games but this honeymoon was unfortunately cut short. Back home in Wolverhampton, he was attacked with a glass in a nightclub, an incident that left him with lifelong facial scars. Things progressively worsened on the injury front and Evans was ruled out for almost half the season following a UEFA Cup game in Bucharest. and was out for four months. Testament to the man, however, his 90 minute Anfield swansong followed upon his return. A hattrick against a Bayern Munich side featuring Beckenbauer, Maier, Hoeness, Schwarzenbeck and Muller, led the Reds to a three - nil victory, in a game where Evans was simply unplayable. He featured in that season’s FA Cup Final, a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal but the following season gradually lost his place to a certain Kevin Keegan. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.
Transfers to Aston Villa and Walsall followed and four seasons later Evans emigrated to Australia to play for South Melbourne in 1978. By all accounts he still looks back on his Anfield career and his professional relationship with Bill Shankly extremely fondly. There aren’t any hard feelings here. No conspiracy behind this unfulfilled potential. Evans certainly had his moments in a red shirt. Rather this is a story of circumstance and misfortune, though I’m sure Alun would look back fondly on the highly respectable career he had. Not many managed to score past Sepp Maier, nevermind a hattrick! Sadly, the signing of Keegan and the rapid rise of Liverpool to the fore of European footballing excellence in the late 1970's only served to highlight Evans’ misfortune. A mercurial talent who didn’t quite live up to the billing. It wasn't all bad though. He’ll still get a mention outside the Sandon on match days and hence he’ll remain a part of footballing folklore.
Image Credits: Alec Caprari, https://www.pinterest.cl/pin/509329039103101731/