Ched Evans is on a collision course for a sensational meeting with his former club, Sheffield United, after signing for League One rivals Chesterfield yesterday.
The 27-year-old striker agreed an initial one-year deal at the Proact Stadium, where his former Blades boss Danny Wilson is in charge and assisted by ex-Bramall Lane coach Chris Morgan.
Evans hasn’t played professional football in over four years, and will join the Spireites for pre-season training. He scored 35 goals in his last season for United before he was jailed for raping a 19-year-old girl in Rhyl, Wales, and served half of his five-year sentence in prison before being released on licence.
His conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in London earlier this year and he faces a retrial in October.
“We are delighted to have secured the services of an outstanding footballer, who is now keen to get back to work and score goals,” said Chesterfield chairman Dave Allen.
“Danny Wilson knows Ched very well, having previously managed him at United. Chris Morgan, our first team coach, also speaks highly of him from their time together at Bramall Lane.
“Chesterfield Football Club have given a great deal of thought to this signing and following the court’s decision, we are in no doubt that Ched Evans should be welcomed back into his profession as a professional footballer.”
Evans’ contract, which is understood to involve a clause in case to protect the club if the striker is found guilty in his retrial, has an option for a further year.
“I am very excited and privileged to be resuming my career at Chesterfield,” Evans said, “and I hope to make a valuable contribution both on and off the pitch for the football club, the fans and the community.”
Officials at the Proact Stadium rubberstamped the move for Evans after detailed conversations with his representatives, before offering him a contract in the region of £2,000 a week.
Wilson was in charge of United when Evans was jailed, while Morgan was a teammate of the Welshman before becoming a coach at Bramall Lane.
Evans won 13 caps for Wales and cost United £3m when he arrived from Manchester Cityin July 2009.
The former Norwich striker is believed to have kept himself fit in HMP Wymott Prison but his mental strength will also be key if he plays his first professional game in almost four-and-a-half years on August 6.
United, who are believed to have paid Evans £20,000 a week, were forced to perform a dramatic U-turn on their offer for their former striker to train with them following his release from prison.
Sponsors and high-profile patrons of the club voiced their displeasure and Jim Phipps, then the co-chairman of United, said: “I’m angry that we are not able to get a chance to do for this footballer what should be done.
“I’m upset that we are not able to do what we wanted to do, but I acknowledge that my view is not the only view.”
United fans were divided on social media yesterday, with a handful of Blades wishing that Evans had returned to Bramall Lane.
One of his first games in a Spireites shirt could come against Sheffield Wednesday on July 14, with the Owls set to visit the Proact for a pre-season friendly.
Ironically, Evans scored a hat-trick for United against Chesterfield in March 2012 - adding to the late winner he scored against them at the Proact in November 2011.