ONCE it was Steve Archibald at Barcelona. Then Paul Lambert at Borussia Dortmund. Now – with all due respect to Allan McGregor of Besiktas – the Scot playing at the highest level of European football is Lisa Evans, of Turbine Potsdam.
German champions for the past four years, Potsdam also won the Champions League in 2010 and were runners-up the following year. They have a long tradition of producing players for the German national team, and more recently have also recruited selectively from abroad, which is where Evans comes in.
The 20-year-old from Perth first came to the attention of Potsdam when her club, Glasgow City, were drawn against them in the Champions League last season.
It was a daunting occasion for the Scots, who were outclassed 17-0 on aggregate, but Potsdam still saw enough in Evans to invite her over for a trial at the start of this year. That went well, and she agreed to join them for the start of this season. She impressed so much in her early outings that she was recently offered, and accepted, a two-year extension to her contract which will keep her in the city, situated around 15 miles south-west of Berlin, until the summer of 2015.
“They originally offered me a two-year deal this year,” Evans explained. “But I wasn’t completely happy with that, because I didn’t know the club and I wasn’t sure how I would settle, so we just agreed a one-year contract then would see how we got on.
“But I think it’s been easy to adapt, to be honest. I’m learning German, although all the girls also speak English anyway, and the style of play is very direct and attacking, which suits my game. And Glasgow City have a very professional set-up too – the way they go about training is similar.”
The only team from the former East Germany to have won the Bundesliga, Potsdam retain much of the ethos from the old socialist days thanks in large part to head coach Bernd Schroder. One of the most influential figures in women’s football, Schroder founded the club in 1971 and oversaw its rise through the ranks, often in the face of severe opposition from the authorities. Now 70, he is revered by his players for his football knowledge and his commitment to the club.
“He’s great,” Evans said. “He’s a modest man, very humble, and he doesn’t take a salary. Everything he does is for the club, and he knows how to get the best out of his players. There’s almost a military atmosphere at training. It’s very disciplined.”
Having been in charge for so long, Schroder has overseen the rebuilding of the first team countless times, and had to undertake the task again in the summer when the club lost three of its German internationals – Babett Peter and Bianca Schmidt to arch-rivals Frankfurt, and Viola Odebrecht to Wolfsburg. So Evans was aware she was joining a club in transition, but soon learned that Schroder had everything under control.
“We knew these girls had been at the club for so long – five, six years or more – and we knew the club was going to have to reorganise. We had a really long pre-season, and played a lot of games, which not only meant we were really fit by the time the season started, but also meant we had got used to playing together.”
So far it is paying off. The new-look Potsdam are four points off the top of the Bundesliga with a game in hand on leaders Wolfsburg, and Evans has played a more than useful part in her role as a wide attacker.
The offer of a new contract, then, was well deserved, and Schroder was delighted when it was accepted. “I’m really pleased to have signed Lisa on an extended contract,” the veteran coach said. “It means we’re able to secure the long-term services of a player who has developed a lot over the last few weeks and months. Lisa has fitted in really well to the philosophy of the club as a footballer and as a person, and is an enormous benefit to the team.”
Schroder’s squad has been severely depleted by injury in the first half of the season, and the lack of experience caught up with the team last month when they lost to Arsenal in the last 16 of the Champions League. “We had a lot of missing players for the Arsenal game, but I have to admit that we didn’t play to our best,” Evans said. “The result was a big disappointment, though.
“I don’t know the last time Potsdam were knocked out of the Champions League so early. So we’ll just have to concentrate on the Bundesliga.”