Ched Evans joining Chesterfield FC will undoubtedly cause splits in opinion.
The former Sheffield United striker was in the form of his life, playing in a team managed by Danny Wilson, when he was found guilty, in 2012, of rape in a case that also saw former Spireites loanee Clayton McDonald cleared of all charges.
At that point, Evans’ future career looked to be in tatters.
When he was released from prison and a number of clubs showed an interest in signing him, only to drop the idea very quickly after pressure from fans and stakeholders, Evans was still a convicted rapist and Chesterfield issued a statement at that time that they would not consider signing him, an understandable viewpoint.
However, since then the legal aspects have changed.
New evidence came to light that convinced three appeal judges that, had that evidence been available at the original trial, the case for the defence would have been significantly stronger, so they quashed the conviction and ordered a re-trial, due to be held in October.
Spireites owner Dave Allen has always been an Evans admirer, as has Wilson, so Chesterfield’s actions, a few days after losing the race to sign Lee Novak on a permanent basis should not come as a huge surprise. The media circus that will inevitably follow may well surprise a few.
What effects four years off the park has had on the player and his skills and sharpness remains to be seen and poses a huge risk about the signing.
The moral arguments though will continue and clearly many supporters will be outraged, you can understand that, and without doubt some supporters will see his signing as a trigger to withdrawing their support whilst others will err on the side of the ‘innocent until proved guilty’ argument and judge him on his performances in the team, at least until his new date in court.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, no pre-season at Chesterfield will ever have received as much coverage as the forthcoming one and no man ever to have pulled on a Spireites shirt will ever have endured the inevitable barrage of abuse Evans will receive from opposition fans week in, week out.
Brave or foolish decision?
There are already those that think it’s anything but brave but, should the re-trial go in Evans’ favour and he starts hitting the net with some degree of regularity, then it could be considered a brave call.
Those who choose to judge the situation on morality issues, whatever happens in the future will be seen as irrelevant as they will, understandably, have found his behaviour, as reported in the media during the original trial, guilty or not, to be repugnant and far from that required from a community role model as footballers these days are. Whatever happens in the next five months, Evans presence at the Proact will be microscopically observed and scrutinised in a way that no other Chesterfield player has ever had to undergo.