From sinner to New Saints - Steve Evans' career highs and lows
From featuring in World Cup and Champions League qualifiers to being unfairly sacked by his club after a public order conviction, Steve Evans' eventful footballing career resumes with the start of the new Welsh Premier League season.
The highs of multiple title wins with WPL title defenders The New Saints, playing for Wales and facing stars such as Liverpool's Steven Gerrard have certainly been tempered with low points.
Evans, now 35, was sacked by The New Saints for an alleged breach of club standards in November 2010 after he was convicted for a public order offence.
It marked a fall from grace for a footballer who only two years earlier had featured for Wales in a World Cup qualifier.
But Evans returned to Oswestry-based Saints after an independent Football Association of Wales tribunal ruled he had been unfairly dismissed and would later sign a new contract with the club.
The centre-half is now not only a member of the Saints' squad, he also coaches some of the club's youth teams.
With over 250 league appearances, the new campaign, starting Friday night, will be his 13th season in the Welsh Premier with the reigning champions.
"I've possibly done things that I shouldn't have done," Evans says of his career, which began as a trainee at Crewe and West Brom.
"Like anyone else I've made mistakes but overall I've enjoyed it and got to play for Wales, something that I'd dreamt of as a kid.
"To still be playing is great for me because I still feel I can still provide good enough quality to play in the league.
Evans has witnessed a "massive" change in the league since he made his debut in 1999 for TNS, who were then based in the mid Wales border village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain.
TNS won the first of their eight Welsh titles during Evans' first season at the club and would later become a professional outfit and relocate over the border to Oswestry.
Backed by businessman Mike Harris, the club led the way in the league's development and Evans believes the competition has improved with every year.
"We started with three, four, five players training full-time and the rest part-time," Evans recalls of his early days with TNS.
"Gradually the club, with its business structure, philosophy and academy structure built itself up and has been the main team for a number of years in the Welsh Prem.
"I remember when we first started you'd have a game, have a few drinks but now the players are a lot more professional and look after themselves a lot more.
"There are better coaches, better coaching and teams are a lot more organised and tough to beat."
Evans, part of the TNS side which played against holders Liverpool in the Champions League qualifiers in 2005, joined hometown club Wrexham a year later.
The defender's two-and-a-half years at the club coincided with a uncertain time for the club off and on the pitch and the club fell out of the Football League.
But Evans' time at the Racecourse will also be remembered for a brief international career, which began with his first cap in a 4-0 win against Lichtenstein in November 2006.
|Steve Evans factfile:|
|Born:26 February 1979, Wrexham|
|Height:6 ft 4 in|
|Senior clubs:TNS (two spells), Oswestry Town (loan) Wrexham|
|Did you know? Evans played for Wales' semi-professional side before winning the first of his seven senior caps against Lichtenstein in 2007|
|He scored on his Wrexham debut vt Grimsby Town in League Two in 2006 and was club's player of the year that season|
|He was the Welsh Premier League's player of season 2003-2004|
|Older brother Ricky also plays in the Welsh Premier League for Gap Connah's Quay|
Evans describes his call-up into John Toshack's Welsh squad as "unreal" but an experience that he continues to cherish eight years later.
"I was at home and I got the call off Geraint Parry from Wrexham on a Sunday morning saying 'You're in the squad,' Evans said.
"I met up on the Sunday afternoon, walked through the doors and bumped into John Toshack who welcomed me.
"Then we go training the next day, stepped off the bus and he turns round and says 'How would you like to play for your country?'
"I said 'I'd love to' in not so many words and he said 'Great, you're playing tomorrow night.' I was over the moon, and to get to play at Wrexham as well.
"I stepped onto the pitch with the likes of [Ryan] Giggs and [Craig] Bellamy and it was a bit surreal.
"But I took it all in and thought to myself 'Listen, I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I should be here' and I just went from there really.
"They were all great occasions and great memories for myself. It's something nobody can take away from me."
His final appearance for Wales in September 2008 was also significant.
Wrexham were by then a Conference club when Evans became Wales' first non-league player after he was named in the squad for a World Cup qualifier against Russia in Moscow.
Toshack's side were holding their hosts to a 1-1 draw going into the final 13 minutes when Evans replaced David Edwards.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, now at Reading, broke Welsh hearts with a winner nine minutes from time and the game proved to be Evans's final appearance for the full side.
Six years on and following a lengthy injury lay-off, Evans is looking forward to the new season with Welsh Premier League champions and Welsh Cup holders The New Saints.
They begin the defence of their title on Friday night at Park Hall against 2011 champions Bangor City.
"It's been a disappointing couple of years for myself in terms of injury but as for TNS it's been a really exciting time," Evans said.
"We've managed to retain the title and that's what we're looking to do this year and personally I'm looking to get back in the team and back playing.
"We're there to be shot at. We're at the top and everybody wants to beat us. I think we'll win it again."