Scottish winger Sam Evans returned to his family roots to appear briefly for the new Ballymena club in their first season in senior football.
Born in Glasgow, his parents (Alexander & Jane) were both from Ballymena and married in Ahoghill in 1884 - before moving across the Irish Sea before the turn of the century to set up home in Scotland. His formative teenage years were spent playing with Clydebank Juniors and then progressed into the fringes of Clydebank as an 18-year-old in the Second Division.
Sam made his transition to Scottish First Division football in the summer of 1923, signing for St. Mirren. Evans spent two seasons featuring regularly on the right flank for the Paisley side as they finished sixth in the top-tier of Scottish football for two consecutive seasons in 1923/24 and 1924/25 – making 42 appearances, scoring twice.
Despite his progress, he was afforded a free transfer from Love Street in June 1925, there was speculation of a move to Cowdenbeath, but ahead of the 1925/26 campaign Evans made the short journey across to return to now fellow First Division club Clydebank. The 21-year-old outside forward personally fared well in his first season; contributing seven goals in 37 appearances but could not save the Bankies from relegation as the club finished four points adrift at the bottom of the standings.
A rift between Evans and the club in the summer of 1926 resulted in the player being placed on the transfer-list but he was eventually settled his differences and returned in September to spearhead the promotion push out of the Second Division. Despite eventually missing out on an immediate return to the top-tier Sam’s pace and quick thinking won him many admirers and a reputation as one of the most talented wingers in Scottish football as he finished the campaign with 24 goals to his name.
In July 1927, he made the move south to Second Division outfit Reading – signing amidst much anticipation from the Berkshire based club after his stellar season previously. Thrown straight into the first eleven, the winger failed to settle quickly in his new surroundings and was eventually only given 13 games to prove himself over the next season and a half, having failed to score in any of those outings for the club.
Having only made two appearances during his second season (1928/1929), the opportunity came calling from Northern Ireland in February 1929 and the chance to represent his ancestral roots by signing for the new Ballymena FC club, who were midway through their first season in existence. He had the misfortune of an inauspicious debut against Linfield in which the Light Blues were put to the sword at Windsor Park, losing 6-0 in the final league outing of the season.
Evans dropped out of the team for a couple of weeks, returning for the City Cup win against Coleraine at the Ballycastle Road venue, but merely as part of a second-string eleven in preparation for the important Irish Cup final the following Saturday. Evans failed to win a place in the panel for the memorable showpiece against Belfast Celtic and by the Monday morning after the final, he had signed his release papers to head back across the Irish Sea after just two appearances.
The 25-year-old winger re-appeared at York City in July 1929 – joining a strong Scottish contingent for the club’s first ever season in the Football League. He scored his first goal in a 3-1 win over New Brighton in September and by then Evans had become a regular feature in York’s successful Third Division North campaign, in which they finished sixth in the table with Sam contributing 8 goals in 43 appearances during the 1929/1930 season.
The following season failed to live up to the heightened expectations of the Minstermen, who finished midtable in the third tier and after just two seasons Sam found himself surplus to requirements and left the club with 66 appearances and 12 goals to his name.
In the summer of 1931, Sam moved to Midland League club Scarborough and spent the season there before a final foray into the Football League in September 1932 when he joined Darlington, where he made two appearances during the 1932/33 season for the struggling Division Three North side. This was the last known club of Sam Evans professional football career, which ended at the age of just 28.
Evans’ life after football is not clear, and details of his death are unknown.
Clydebank Juniors; Clydebank; (Jun 1923) St. Mirren; (Aug 1925) Clydebank; (Jul 1927) Reading; (Feb 1929) Ballymena; (Jul 1929) York City; (1931) Scarborough; (Sep 1932) Darlington.
Last updated: 16 August 2022