Former Sheffield United footballer Ched Evans, behind bars for rape, has vowed to ‘fight’ to resurrect his career.
Evans, aged 25, is serving a five-year jail term for raping a woman on a night out in 2011. He will be freed on licence in October after serving half his sentence.
In an open letter posted on a website set up by his supporters, who believe he was wrongly convicted, the former Blades striker, said: “It may be a fight to get my career back on track but one thing is for sure, I am definitely up for that fight.”
Evans was convicted of raping a 19-year-old girl in a hotel room after a night out in Rhyl, North Wales. Jurors in his trial were told Evans admitted having sex with the woman, but the prosecution case was she was too drunk to consent.
Fellow footballer Clayton McDonald, who played for Port Vale at the time but now plays for Grimsby Town, was acquitted.
Evans’ footballing future has divided fans, with two online petitions both attracting thousands of signatures.
One petition calls for Sheffield United not to resign him on his release, with the other signed by fans supportive of the player returning to Bramall Lane.
According to his website, the Ministry of Justice allow prisoners who maintain their innocence to use the internet through a third party ‘to make serious representations about their innocence’.
“Two years have now passed, I have six months left and the fight to clear my name goes on,” he wrote.
He said his legal team is ‘seeking new evidence from all quarters’.
“When I am released I will look everyone in the eye with confidence as I know I’m innocent and the people I love and who love me in return know the truth.”
He told campaigners: “The support I have received through my website and Facebook site have made the time more bearable and every single letter I receive I read and re-read, and all of them mean more to me than you can imagine.
“The support from Sheffield United fans has been incredible - the hundreds that have written to me giving me encouragement for the future and remembering my time with the football club, I can’t thank you enough.”
Fifty-five thousand people have signed the opposing petition demanding Evans never returns to the Lane.
“To even consider reinstating him as a player at the same club is a deep insult to the woman who was raped and to all women like her who have suffered at the hands of a rapist,” it says.
Only 3,589 have signed the petition supporting Evans, who was signed by Sheffield United in 2009.