Oldham Athletic might just pull off the signing of the season.
Please note this is a comment piece.
Ched Evans was part of a golden generation of Welsh footballers, his name listed alongside Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, and Joe Allen.
He was signed by Manchester City, in the days before Thaksin Shinawatra, but for a 14-year-old lad from St Asaph in North Wales, a town of just over 3,000 people, a chance to play in the Premier League was not to be sniffed at.
When he was signed by Kevin Keegan’s side, I’m sure very few fans will ever have heard of him. Now there are few people in the country even outside of football who don’t have an opinion on Evans.
The Ministry of Justice “allows prisoners who maintain their innocence to use the internet through a third party to make serious representations about their innocence”.
The implications for that are very severe. It says that we have such a liberal approach to justice that even if our extensive legal system has found someone guilty, we will still allow them to protest their innocence.
It’s pretty remarkable that we live in such an enlightened society that will allow those who truly believe something to tell other people about it.
Evans has a website dedicated to his case, which will still be submitted to Criminal Cases Review Commission. His case’s journey is not even over yet.
However, despite all our country’s liberalism and fair justice, there is something that cannot be accounted for: how someone is treated when they are released into society.
Actually, forget society for a second, and think about institution. Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd came out against Oldham signing Evans. By doing so, he undermines the Ministry of Justice’s own policy, just as Ed Miliband or anyone else has.
Prison rehabilitates and prepares prisoners for re-entry into the outside world. Psychologists explain to them that they may become something of a pariah, and many will move to a new area for a fresh start, and a new beginning, to somewhere their face is not known.
For Evans there can be no escape. There is no new beginning. Even his old club Sheffield United allowing him to train with them caused national uproar.
What would we have Ched Evans do? Nationally humiliated on a daily basis in some sort of Black Mirror-esque punishment-by-television?
No. If we believe that this is Britain, a country proud of its record on human rights, and on civil liberties, then we must allow him to re-enter society. To reclaim his place in a football team. To score goals again.
He has spent time in a prison, serving as a non-citizen, unable to walk to the shops, play football, go to the pub, or vote. Now he has his liberty back, but only in name.
And he is, it would appear, one of the few to be victimised in such a way.
We have welcomed back a number of convicted criminals into the footballing community: Titus Bramble, Lee Hughes, Luke McCormick, Lee Bowyer. Marlon King has a string of convictions, including the sexual assault of women in Soho in 2009.
Jermaine Pennant became the first player to play in the Premier League while wear an electronic tagging device, on probation following drink-driving offences.
Somehow we found it in our hearts to forgive these men. Or maybe ignore their past. Or maybe we expected them to change.
The point is not that we expect Evans to change. The point is not that we expect him to reoffend. The point is that there are many among us who have stains on their past, some we know some we don’t.
The point is that we have created a justice system deemed to be righteous and fair, and we must accept that it alone can try and punish people, and the mob must stand and applaud.
Main image courtesy of blogdroed via Flickr, with thanks.