The former team-mate of Ched Evans, tried alongside him for rape, has said his football career is ruined despite being acquitted.
Cleared Clayton McDonald said “mud sticks” and he is now playing non-league football due to his friend’s high-profile conviction.
The 25-year-old former Port Vale defender claims he faces hunting for a regular job or turning to benefits, and that rebuilding his life has been ‘near impossible’.
He was released by Tranmere Rovers after a month this August, he says because of the constant reports in the papers and on TV.
He said: “I’m gutted. They let me go and I now play for Southport in the Conference, but they have just told me I will have to get a job as well, as they can’t pay top wages
“I can’t afford all this and jobs are hard to come by. I might have to seek benefits if things don’t improve. It’s so hard to move on with all this publicity.”
Clayton was on a night out with Evans in Rhyl, North Wales, in 2011, which ended with Evans carrying out the sex attack.
He was found not guilty of rape while the former Sheffield United striker was found guilty, and sentenced to five years in prison.
He has now been released after serving two and a half years.
Describing his experiences since his acquittal as “horrendous”, Clayton added: “Mud sticks and I’ve found it difficult for a club to take me on.”
He said: “I had a year of hell leading up the trial and it’s not changed much since then.
“I’ve been in the same position as Ched and know what it’s like. To be accused of rape is terrible. I had a difficult time trying to concentrate on football while all this was going on.
“I have tried to rebuild my life ever since the court case but have found it near-impossible.
“As a pro you have to try to cope but it’s so hard when you’re accused of something you haven’t done. I wasn’t guilty of anything.”
Clayton said he believed Ched was innocent and had visited him in prison.
Sheffield United are still ‘deliberating’ whether to re-sign the player.
Clayton added: “I know Ched is fired up. He wants to get back to playing and I hope Sheffield give him a chance.”