It seems strange for a player to spend eight years at a football club and not leave with an outpouring of adulation and thanks. Yet, in something of a rarity for such a long-serving player, Corry Evans departs Ewood still dividing opinion.

Even for a player with 218 appearances for the club, by some, his time will be remembered for the number of matches he missed, than played. And there were times it felt as though there was a concentration on what he didn’t do well, than what he did.

His role in the side was never one to command headlines, yet at times it was overlooked, and the fact he was a trusted member of the squad at both club and international level told its own story.

Evans signed for Rovers in the summer of 2013 from Hull City on a three-year deal, signing contract extensions at the end of both 2015 and 2018, just when his contract was approaching the final six months.

And both of those extensions came at times when the Northern Irishman was playing well, but also regularly.

Yet since penning that most recent extension, he has started just 33 Championship fixtures for Rovers in the last two-and-half seasons.

He struck up an excellent partnership with Lewis Travis for parts of 2018/19 and 2020/21, Rovers’ results reflecting that, similarly alongside Richie Smallwood in the League One promotion campaign and first half of the following campaign.

It was Mowbray’s preference for two shielding midfielders which looked to bring out the best in Evans, yet a move to three central midfielders this term required a different skill set, a role which didn’t suit his strengths, the balance of the side not looking quite right when used in one of the outside two positions.

Whether it be Jason Lowe and Evans, or Evans and Smallwood, or similar options in the Championship relegation season of 2016/17, Rovers have rarely had the most dynamic midfield options, the goal and assists output a demonstration of that, Evans leaving with 10 and 12 of each, two assists coming in his farewell appearance.Yet a further delve into Evans’ stats show that when he was fit, he was generally selected.

2013/14: 23 starts, nine substitute appearances, unused 11 times.

2014/15: 37 starts, one substitute appearance, unused five times.

2015/16: 26 starts, four substitute appearances, unused six times.

2016/17: 16 starts, three substitute appearances, never unused.

2017/18: 25 starts, seven substitute appearances, unused seven times.

2018/19: 33 starts, two substitute appearances, unused six times.

2019/20: 11 starts, two substitute appearances, unused 11 times.

2020/21: 11 starts, seven substitute appearances, unused eight times.

Evans failed to feature in any of the 15 games Mowbray took charge of in 2016/17 as Rovers battled against relegation because of a persistent groin problem. And that was an issue that blighted the midfielder throughout his early years at the club.

His fitness issues of late have been more even more unfortunate, and frustrating.

He showed immense bravery to overcome a fractured skull and eye socket sustained in January 2020, only to break his toe in the final throws of his comeback appearance, a goalscoring one, against Bristol City in June, then ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Evans then missed 14 games between November and January with a hamstring injury picked up just 90 seconds into the home win over QPR, and with it, denied him the chance of featuring in Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off games.

As Mowbray has already suggested, Interest in Evans is unlikely to be short, a reunion with former international boss Michael O’Neill at Stoke City seems a good fit, and had been mooted as long ago as 2019.

With Rovers having younger options coming through, as well as the chance to trim the wage bill that also saw senior central midfielders Lewis Holtby and Stewart Downing, as well as loanee Tom Trybull depart, the timing feels right for Rovers and Evans to go in different directions. Hopefully a new environment can help bring a change in fortunes.