COLUMN: What now for Ched Evans and the club who took a gamble on him?
Football was barely a minor concern during and in the immediate aftermath of Ched Evans' rape trial.
But now that the Welshman has been found not guilty of raping a teenager in a Rhyl Premier Inn, attention once again turns to his career.
Although the dust has not yet settled on an incident that has dominated the 27-year-old’s life for five years – debate and reaction to the trial rages on, he’s said to be seeking lost earnings – it’s perfectly fair for Chesterfield fans to now ask what it all means for their club.
It was the Spireites who handed Evans a career lifeline in the summer, taking a considerable gamble given his lengthy absence from competitive football and the potential consequences of his Cardiff Crown Court appearance.
It is Town fans, players and officials who have had to endure vile chants at the Proact and elsewhere about their number nine, lyrics you’d hope never to have to explain to a youngster at a sporting event.
A minority of Chesterfield supporters had on a couple of occasions responded with a disgusting song of their own and it wouldn’t be an unreasonable to think these were the kind of people wildly celebrating Friday’s verdict on social media.
However there are no winners from this sordid tale, there is no credit to be given.
And the vast majority of the Spireites supporters who reacted online were measured in their response.
Those fans will be wondering, what next for Evans as a Chesterfield player?
Bar a brief statement from Chris Turner that said he was ‘naturally delighted’ at the verdict and Danny Wilson’s terse ‘he’ll return when he’s fit,’ Chesterfield are unlikely to elaborate on the issue.
Turner’s statement said there would be no further comment, Wilson told assembled media at his Monday press conference that he wouldn’t talk about Evans other than to discuss football matters.
But given his assertion that the player’s future at the Proact was strictly a matter for the club and the player, you can deduce that Chesterfield’s policy of saying as little as possible when it comes to Evans remains in place.
Now that there’s no legal cloud hanging over the striker, other clubs will be watching him very closely.
The January transfer window will be an incredibly interesting period for the Spireites.
Should Evans return from this foot injury and put the ball in the net several more times before the turn of the year, expect bids from anyone and everyone, from the upper echelons of League One and Championship clubs to boot.
He will be hot property and the gamble taken by Chesterfield will pay off handsomely.
It was suggested to me by an individual close to the club that the option for the striker to remain at the Proact for a second year would be activated before he was sold, with Evans’ blessing.
The theory put forward was that such was his gratitude to Wilson and Chesterfield that he’d want them to receive the best possible price for his services.
Regardless of any loyalty he might and should feel for those around him at 1866 Sheffield Road, can you for one second imagine any agent advising him to go along with that as a career plan?
The option might be in Chesterfield’s favour and could drive up the asking fee but it’s hard to see past a January sale to a Sheffield United, a Cardiff or a Wigan.
When he goes, and go he will at some stage in the not too distant future, regardless of your feelings toward him, Evans’ arrival will be looked back on by many as good business, especially for a club needing the money.
He’s unlikely to grace the Proact media room and his circumstances may not ever be discussed by the club but Evans will be a hot topic from now until his departure.
And far beyond.