IS there a place left in English football for convicted rapist Ched Evans?

That is the stark reality now facing the former Sheffield United striker who was found guilty of rape and has served half of a five-year jail sentence.

Since his release from prison - he still remains on licence for the remainder of the sentence - attempts to resume his career with his former Sheffield employers and, with fellow Sky Bet League One club Oldham Athletic this very week, have been jettisoned due to huge public outcries and the threat of sponsors withdrawing support for the respective clubs.

A three-year deal with Oldham was said to be “80 per cent” done only for the Pennines-based club to do a U-turn and withdraw any offer to the 26-year-old player citing the outrage of the public, including many Latics fans, and death threats to employees at the club.

That rejection also led to the first public utterance from Evans offering some sort of remorse for his actions which led to his conviction and imprisonment.

Within that statement, agreed by a legal team currently fighting for a legal challenge to the sentence with his case now going before the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Evans said he was sorry for “the effects” of that night, including for “the woman” whom he was found guilty of raping.

But does that really resemble remorse and as long as that hard- hearted stance remains can Evans, who has been tried and convicted by jury, honestly be viewed as a genuine case for rehabilitation?

Strenuously maintaining his innocence, there has been little in the way of compassion or thought for the woman who was raped.

If there is to be a shot at rehabilitation then first there has to be repentance and so far that has been lamentably lacking from Evans.

There is no doubt, however, that the case has lit blue touch paper across the country.

This week’s development at Oldham prompted a foot-in-mouth Hillsborough howler from Gordon Taylor, the head of the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, and even more crass and senseless remarks from Hull City boss Steve Bruce.

The Tigers’ manager revealed he had backed Oldham’s efforts to sign the player.

Keen to give “the kid another chance”, Bruce added: “I can only say on behalf of myself, I know I might be upsetting people but there is a question of the rape and how he’s been convicted by a jury.

“When you look at the evidence, it is there for appeal.”

Now while Bruce’s abilities as a football boss are admirable and not in question, somehow I do not think he is a criminal justice expert.

Even ignoring that bald reality, second chances can only be given to those who express some sort of sorrow for their actions.

Other pertinent matters surely have to be taken into consderation such as the fact that Evans has still not completed the sentence imposed upon him.

Then, there’s the matter of the footballer’s legal team’s judicial review has still to be examined by the CCRC.

Depending on the time of judicial due process Evans could be facing a lengthy exile which returns us to the initial question posed at the outset of this column.

But judging by a survey of League One and League Two clubs conducted by the BBC this week there could well still be many havens for Evans to get back to the high-profile of professional football.

Only six League One clubs, not counting the failed attempts at getting a contract with Sheffield United or Oldham, categorically declared no interest in employing Evans.

That number was down to four, including York City, in the basement division who said they definitely would not sign the player.

Perhaps Evans’ union, the PFA, might be better served in advising him to stay clear of any attempt to return to the field of play at least until the matter is dealt with by the CCRC.


ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger ignited a fresh debate on athletes and smoking this week.

After fining goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for smoking in the shower after defeat by Stoke, Wenger said he would banish players who indulge to training with the youth squad.

Given the Gunners’ record against the Potteries side, I’m surprised more Arsenal players have not turned to the dreaded weed.

However, as a non-smoker I have always wondered just what the appeal is for footballers, indeed any athletes, to take up the gaspers.

But such a habit did not seem to curtail the footballing exploits of such ciggie luminaries as Billy Bremner, Duncan McKenzie and legendary Brazilian World Cup-winning captain Socrates. Even England captain Wayne Rooney is said to have indulged in lighting-up time.