Safe Standing-Now is the time

Finally calls for Safe Standing to be introduced in Britain appear to have gathered momentum this week. Welsh Conservative leader Andrew Davies, with the support of the FSF, took the debate to the Welsh Assembly on Monday morning outlining the numerous reasons why it’s time for football supporters to be given the option to stand or sit like many fans of other sports. The long shadow of Hillsborough has loomed large for too long when it comes to supporters standing or sitting. Now is the time for the facts to be made clear to avoid every argument proposing safe standing to be rebuffed with “But Hillsborough…”. Of course the Hillsborough disaster was a terrible incident that has affected all those who have lived through its memory, not just Liverpool fans but all football supporters. Nobody can suggest a return to the crumbling old terraces that football fans were reduced to in the 1980s today and nor can anyone suggest that what took place on that fateful April Sunday was anything but a national tragedy. But the blame game against standing has to stop now. It is time to move on.

Perhaps the most common misconception of the Hillsborough argument is that standing was the reason for the loss of 96 lives. This is simply not true. The main reason for the sorry events on that fateful day in 1989 was that the police allowed far too many supporters to enter the terrace and the number of spaces simply did not supply the demand. The decision to only allow entry through seven turnstiles created severe overcrowding and when far too many people entered the stand their was simply no room to move. This led to the terrible scenes of the crush barrier breaking, fans falling on top of each other and consequently the loss of 96 lives. The 1990 Taylor report into the disaster recommended (although Taylor stressed it was not vital) a move away from standing at major stadiums despite admitting that the reason for the events of April 15th were poor police control above all else. Furthermore it is reckoned that had 41 of the 96 fatalities received adequate medical treatment there deaths may have been avoided. The evidence found from more than twenty-five years of looking at what went wrong has resulted in the simple fact that standing was not to blame. If the police had admitted the correct number of supporters into the Leppings Lane stand then the disaster would not have took place.

There are a number of recommendations in the Taylor report that did not become law, something which is often overlooked. For instance Taylor suggested that standing areas should be outlawed in all sports but instead they still exists today with Rugby the most famous example. As mentioned earlier Taylor even suggested that standing was not vitally unsafe yet the government of the day pushed ahead with all seater stadiums. Then in 1992 the Government decided that stadiums in League One or Two did not require all seater stadiums. Now, quite why it is alright to stand at a League One game but not at a Championship game is beyond me. Do the authorities believe that supporters of Championship clubs are more likely to cause trouble? We currently have a bizarre situation where a club that gets promoted to the Championship must remove its standing areas within three seasons of Championship football. So a club must pay significant amounts of money to implement seats, and lose a significant part of the stadium’s atmosphere in the process, as a reward for gaining promotion and stabilising as a Championship club. Or we have the situation with Bristol City where they are hoping to build rail seats in their new stand but will only be allowed to use the rail space for standing when the rugby is being played at Ashton Gate. This basically says rugby supporters can be trusted to stand at a match but football supporters cannot.

So we have established that the reasons for the Hillsborough disaster were not standing but a range of external factors such as poor police control, crumbling stadiums and a failure to provide medical attention to those in the aftermath. We can also see that the current situation is not tenable, as much as the government may like to think it is. I honestly am yet to hear a suitable reason not to allow Safe Standing to be implemented. On Monday the Sports Ground Safety Authority sent out a statement in reply to the Welsh Conservative’s declaration of support for Safe Standing. This statement, extremely short in length, acknowledges the Conservative position but questions how the standing will be managed by stewards. A fair comment although a quick look at how the model works in Germany should provide the answer. However the most worrying part of the statement was the suggestion that, “some fans may prefer to stand , our view is that seating is generally safer” now anyone who has celebrated an important goal in a seating area knows the perils of injuries sustained through celebration in the tight area between your seat and the person in front’s seat. How this authority can suggest that standing in a seating area is safer than standing in a standing area is beyond me especially when you look at the number of incidents that have occurred in Germany’s safe standing areas. Princely zero incidents. Finally the statement concludes by saying that seating creates, “a more inclusive and diverse environment”. The evidence for this seems to be that when terracing did exist in all of British football the majority of people who went to games were white working class males of any age group whereas now football stadiums reflect everyone in society such as more women, people from ethnic minorities etc. However this fails to recognise the climate that terracing was taking place in with sexism and racism fairly widespread. I cannot see why a return to standing would suddenly reduce the diversity of people in a stadium. Nobody is suggesting that the whole stadium gets turned into safe standing, those who enjoy sitting down will still have the opportunity to do so. If anything the very people who supposedly filled the stadiums pre-Hillsborough, the working class, are in danger of extinction at football matches should ticket prices continue to rise. There is a belief that the Taylor report resembled the moment where football decided to leave its core support behind that had blighted the game by hooliganism and attempt to engage with the middle classes. Alas that is a debate for a different day, the facts remain there is no reason that I can see why Safe Standing should not be implemented in a section of every football ground in Britain should the supporters want it.

Atmosphere is declining and ticket prices are rising at the highest level. The answer is simple. Introduce Safe Standing.

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Safe Standing-Now is the time

Should we care that Jovetic has been dropped? Probably not

This week brought the news that Manchester City have removed Stefan Jovetic from their Champions League squad ahead of the upcoming last 16 ties with Barcelona in place of new signing Wilfried Bony. For some this was seen as a backward step, why spend just under 30 million pounds on a new signing and still remain a striker short in Europe? Others argued that surely the whole point of signing Bony was to fill the gap left by Alvaro Negredo’s sudden departure in August and allow the Champions of England to have four strikers to call upon? Both are fair points but other reasons can explain why Manuel Pellegrini decided to remove the Serbian striker from his squad including the influence of FFP and its after effects last May.

Last summer UEFA sought to make an example of City by inflicting a number of penalties following City’s failure to pass FFP. Alongside financial penalties the club were also limited to a Champions League squad size of 21 men reduced from originally 25 of which 8 of the 21 had to be regarded as “homegrown”. Naturally Bony arrived at City expecting to play Champions League football, as did the City supporters, but who to leave out in light of the tight stipulations over City’s squad was not going to be an easy decision for the Chilean manager.

When people think of Manchester City’s so-called, “fringe” players the usual suspects usually come up. Derided figures such as Richard Wright, Dedryck Boyata or, up until his loan move to Aston Villa last month, Scott Sinclair are often spoke off and for the most part are seen as expendable should a new signing come in. However only Boyata out of the three figures of fun is in fact a part of City’s European squad and his position as one of the few homegrown players City can call upon makes him something of a necessity in the squad. This made it inevitable that Bony would have to replace a seasoned member of the City squad, the only question remaining was who.

Pellegrini’s slim options to choose from to make way for the Ivorian included Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov or a striker out of Edin Dzeko or Stefan Jovetic. Although Pellegrini had stated that he wanted two men for every position a squad of 21 made that implausible. If any position had to be sacrificed then it would have to be striker as injuries or a loss of form have seen both reserve full backs feature at some point during the season and it is impossible to argue that the same could not happen again. You could have suggested that Caballero was not really needed in Europe but he has featured a few times this season as well to keep Joe Hart on his toes after a spell of questionable form. Also removing Caballero may have inflated Hart’s already large ego and led to a drop in form in the face of no direct competition.

So it was ultimately between Dzeko or Jovetic who would make way for Bony with both strikers have their deficiencies and their strengths. Dzeko has forever been linked with a move away from City almost immediately since his big money move from Wolfsburg in January of 2011. Even now, four years on, the general consensus among City supporters remains dubious of the Bosnian’s talents. His goal record for City may be decent, 48 in 119, but his nature to go through long goal droughts continues to give the impression that his long-term future does not lie with City. This season alone the Bosnian has scored just four goals, all of them coming in September in the wake off signing a new contract although a spell out with an injury in December may go some way to explaining the lack of goals.

Stefan Jovetic too has struggled for goals this season with just five to his name so far. Last season the Serbian international spent more time with the physio then he did on the pitch, making just 18 appearances in the whole campaign for City and failing to make a huge impression on the odd occasions where he did play. At least this season the injury problems have subsided but the performances have remained inconsistent and rarely impressive. Not being included in the Champions League squad sets a bad precedent for where Jovetic stands in Pellegrini’s plans and could serve as the beginning of the end for the Serb in City colours. Furthermore last month saw fellow Serbian team-mate Matija Nastasic leave the club on loan to Schalke with a view to a permanent deal, perhaps another factor that could leave to Jovetic’s days being numbered given the close relationship the two players share.

Ultimately if it had to be a choice between Dzeko or Jovetic then surely the right decision was made. Jovetic remains inconsistent in many City fan’s eyes whereas with Dzeko you know exactly what you will get, for better or for worse. Furthermore the Bosnian target man’s knack of scoring important goals (equaliser in THAT QPR game, two in the 6-1 defeat of United and two in the 3-2 win at Everton last season that effectively sealed the title) make him a potentially valuable asset ahead of the two games with Barcelona. Few could suggest that Pellegrini had little option but to drop Jovetic in place of Bony and nor could you say that City are any worse off after the decision.

Should we care that Jovetic has been dropped? Probably not

Tony Pulis at it again in the Transfer Window

It was only going to be a matter of time until one of the Premier League strugglers turned to arguably the most wanted manager in Britain after his Crustal Palace exploits earned him the Manager of the Season accolade last May. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the Tony Pulis saga was that it took so long for a club to swoop in and appoint him. Ultimately it was the much maligned figure of Alan Irvine who finally lost his job with Pulis waiting in the wings to takeover and in many eyes survival for West Brom would now be a formality. However that may have been oversimplifying things. Pulis arrived at a club languishing in sixteenth position with top scorer Saido Berahino appearing to be ready to be sold at any moment and the clubs recent form making for difficult reading for Baggies supporters, seven defeats in nine. Pulis openly stated that the West Brom job was a more difficult situation than the Crystal Palace position he took in November of 2013 and a good January appeared vital to the Midland’s sides fortunes.

Luckily it seems West Brom have enjoyed exactly that. Although they may have missed out, for better or for worse, on the signing of Carlton Cole, Pulis did manage to attract former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher and Wigan Athletic winger Callum McManaman for the princely sum of just 4.75 million pounds for the pair. Both signings add an extra dimension to the West Brom side, with Fletcher’s leadership and tonnes of experience alongside McManaman’s pace and flair. A quick look at the West Brom side conveys a group of players with an excellent spine of Premier League expertise. In goal Ben Foster has routinely performed as one of the top six or seven goalkeepers in the country whilst in the centre of defence they posses former Premier League winner Joleon Lescott who could have claimed to be England’s second best centre half just a few years ago. Then we have Fletcher of course in the middle of the park commanding the play before up front the mercurial talent of Saido Berahino (for as long as he stays with Albion) provides the ability to score a range of goals as shown through his performances this season. Throw in the flair of McManaman, the strength of Victor Anichebe and the youthful potential of Andre Wisdom (admittedly only on loan) and the future looks bright for the Baggies under Pulis.

Naturally it is the signing of Fletcher which raised the most eyebrows in the Midlands this week. The Scottish captain has won literally everything that can be won in the game and before his unfortunate time out with a Bowel disease he was highly regarded by many United supporters. Reportedly United manager Louis Van Gaal did not want to lose Fletcher but it was the enticement of more game time and the chance to work under Pulis that sealed the deal for the Scot.

As for McManaman, Pulis is well aware of the kind of talent he is recruiting with his FA Cup Final Man of the Match performance still living long in the memory of all who watched it. On that halcyon day in Wigan’s history back in May of 2013 the Englishman took Manchester City defender Gael Clichy to the cleaners in one of the most exciting winger performances in modern times. Following that performance, and a decent Premier League season to boot despite his club’s relegation, McManaman was the flavour of the month, earning a call up to the England Under 21 squad for the forthcoming European Championships only for an injury to cruelly prevent him from taking part. However his time spent in the Championship has taken him our of the public eye and chances to return to the Premier League and the spotlight had been thin on the ground until Pulis came calling last month. Given Tony’s marvellous record when it comes to wingers, Pennant and Etherington at Stoke and Puncheon and Bolasie at Palace, I would expect McManaman to thrive at the Albion and perhaps return to the kind of form which saw him regarded as one of the hottest talents in English football.

Few people would expect West Brom to be facing any threat of relegation this season now, rather their target will be to finish as high as possible in the mini league that has formed towards the bottom of the Premier League. Arguably twelfth appears a reasonable shout, a position that seemed implausible just a few months back, and with the FA Cup fifth round drawing them with a home tie against West Ham a Cup run remains a firm possibility. Pulis came so close to Cup glory with Stoke in 2011, perhaps with many of the big names out of this season’s competition this could be the year for West Brom to bring some silverware back to the Hawthorns. One things for sure, their two signings this January have done nothing to harm their chances.

Tony Pulis at it again in the Transfer Window

City Middlesbrough Match Report

Manchester City 0 Middlesbrough 2

Karanka masterminds Cup shock to knock out League Champions City

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Manchester City were expected to dispatch Championship side Middlesbrough with some ease ahead of this fourth round tie. Yet instead what transpired was a true Cup shock, masterminded not through parking the proverbial bus or dodgy refereeing decisions (although we had one or two) but through Boro’s tenacious approach to taking on the Champions by playing them at their own game, producing a classic Cup tie in the process.

It has been a strange season so far for City fans, after last seasons League and Cup double many expected this year to bring further silverware and progress in Europe. However the reality has turned out to be something rather different. In the League it’s been a struggle for City to stay in touch with leaders Chelsea who opened up a five point gap at the top of the table last weekend. Meanwhile in the League Cup City succumbed to Newcastle in the fourth round rather meekly and although they remain in the Champions League by the skin of their teeth, the next round pairing with Barcelona suggests they may struggle to reach the quarters for what would be the first time in the clubs history. With chances for a trophy this season looking diminished, the FA Cup looked to have taken on further significance and Middlesbrough at home appeared a very winnable tie. Yet warnings that this might not be as straight forward as many predicted were plentiful.

After all, Middlesbrough are enjoying something of a revival this season after a troublesome period since their relegation from the Premier League in 2009. Before Saturdays game they were second in the Championship table having conceded the least in the division with just 18 goals going against the Boro. Aitor Karanka’s appointment in November of 2013 may have surprised many at the time but now it appears to have been fully vindicated and Karanka’s range of contacts throughout the game, particularly with Jose Mourinho, have helped bring a wealth of young talent to Boro. The best use of such contacts has been the signing of Patrick Bamford who arrived on loan in the summer, a great coup given his goal scoring record on loan at Milton Keynes and Derby last season.

The match itself began with Middlesbrough seemingly buoyed by their vast away support from the North East, all who came with hope rather than expectation for an upset. A sea of 5,500 red and white shirts greeted the away side and the sporadic use of flares helped create a proper Cup atmosphere. Within 30 seconds of the game kicking off Boro immediately put the pressure on the City back four. Dedryck Boyata’s surprise inclusion in the starting eleven appeared to give Middlesbrough cause to attack City’s perceived vulnerability in the centre of defence. However after a feverish opening five minutes the game began to settle into a predictable routine of City pressure without Boro ever looking in serious danger of conceding. The first real chance of the half came after a nice piece of build up play allowed James Milner to shoot from just outside the box only to be denied by a decent save from keeper Tomas Mejias, a Spaniard signed from Real Madrid in the summer. Mejias was at it again two minutes later to make an almost identical save once more, this time from a David Silva effort, as the tie began to resemble Mejia’s coming of age after an inconsistent start to his Boro career. Half time came with most City fans fairly confident that more pressure in the second half would bring an early goal to calm any nerves. Middlesbrough on the other hand were delighted with the state of play, on a few occasions they had looked dangerous on the break, giving them hope of perhaps snatching a goal in the second half.

With neither side making a change at half time the second half began with City on the front foot once more. Yet the first goal of the game came not from the Champions but from the away side. In the 53rd minute persistent forward play from Alberto Adomah helped Boro to take advantage of a terrible defensive mix up allowing Bamford to slot home from close range amidst desperate attempts from City midfielder Fernando to avert the ball away from the net. The ball hitting the back of the net was met with mass delirium in the Boro end to which Middlesbrough were attacking towards, it’s these moments that truly define an FA Cup campaign and all those in the away end on Saturday will remember Bamford’s goal for many years to come. Suggestions that Middlesbrough might resort to defending their one goal lead with ten men behind the ball were proven wrong immediately with two clear chances for Boro to deliver a killer blow coming shortly after the opening goal. Firstly after 62 minutes Adomah was played through by Lee Tomlin for a one on one with City keeper Willy Caballero only for the Ghanaian to deliver a weak chip straight into the arms of the thankful Argentinian. Then just four minutes later a wonderful piece of play by the ever dangerous Tomlin should have created proper daylight between the two teams. Tomlin produced a wonderful turn past the City captain Vincent Kompany and then shot powerfully to beat the keeper only for the ball to hit the inside of the right post and go out of play. Tomlin was incredibly unlucky not to score, his wonderful piece of play would have been the talk of the weekend had it found the back of the net. Both chances appeared to finally wake City from their slumber and from the 70th minute onwards the game began to be played out in the Boro half. However City failed to produce any chances of note until finally in the 89th minute a deflected effort from substitute Frank Lampard hit the bar, just inches away from earning City an undeserved leveler.  A few moments later Middlesbrough delivered the final knockout blow with a second goal in added on time to seal a memorable victory. It was another substitute, Spanish striker Kike, who slotted past Caballero to send Middlesbrough into the fifth round for the first time since 2009.

So into the fifth round Middlesbrough go and nobody who watched this game could say they deserved otherwise. Some of City’s players performed as though they believed their mere appearance would be enough to deliver victory and Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to take the club to Abu Dhabi in midweek looks to have been a crass move given the capitulation that followed on Saturday. And as for the FA Cup? Well, the magic is still very much alive.

Attendance: 44386 (5,500 Middlesbrough)

City Middlesbrough Match Report

Bury Wycombe Match Report

Bury 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Shakers settle for a share of the spoils

It has not been a season to remember thus far for Bury supporters despite what summer signings and early season form may have promised. The Shakers have stalled alarmingly over the past two months, going out of two Cup competitions and sliding down the table to the position they occupied before Saturday’s match, ninth. Wycombe on the other hand have enjoyed a promotion campaign that nobody upon nobody saw coming. It was only thanks to a Bristol Rovers defeat on the last day of the season to Mansfield that the Chairboys managed to preserve their Football League status in May of last year yet this season manager Gareth Ainsworth has led his side to the top of League Two, earning Wanderers a range of plaudits in the process. His team came to Gigg Lane on Saturday hopeful if not expectant of another three points to add to their already impressive tally so far.

Wycombe’s success has been built on their hugely impressive work ethic. Ainsworth’s side have taken a number of notable scalps this season, overcoming perhaps higher quality opposition through good old-fashioned hard work. On paper, Bury’s side is packed with much more quality than their Wycombe counterparts. Players like Danny Mayor, Ryan Lowe and Nathan Cameron should not be starring in a side outside the Play Off positions. However Wycombe have a team spirit that counteracts this, for instance the Wycombe midfield is simply built on tenacious players who enjoy playing with each other immensely. Bury manager David Flitcroft knew what to expect on Saturday following a tight 0-0 draw at Adams Park earlier in the season which showed just how difficult this Wycome side is to beat.

shakers

The match itself was lucky to go ahead. The wintry weather in Greater Manchester had made the Gigg Lane pitch close to unplayable, this was not a day for being on the receiving end of a slide tackle. However once the game kicked off Bury had the better of the opening exchanges, counter attacking on numerous occasions in the first 20 minutes with the slippery pitch working to the blistering Bury attack’s advantage. This finally reaped its rewards when Bury took a well deserved lead on 30 minutes after comical defending from Wycombe defender Alfie Mawson allowed Danny Mayor to stab home from close range. However as the half wore on Wycombe ominously began to come more and more into the game, with an Aaron Pierre strike just going wide on the brink of half time.

The second half began the way the first ended, with Wycombe continuing to pile on the pressure. Finally this pressure paid off and a well placed finish from Millwall loanee striker Fred Onyedinma brought the scores level after 68 minutes via Joe Jacobson’s sublime through pass. Onyedinma was a threat throughout the game and his third goal in as many games was enough to send the 270 Chairboy supporters into raptures. The Bury management team were incensed that the striker had handled the ball whilst controlling before the finish so much so that assistant manager Chris Brass was sent to the stands for over zealous behaviour. Nevertheless the goal stood and few could have argued that Wycombe did not deserve it.

The remainder of the game was played out mostly in Bury’s half who were perhaps lucky to escape with a draw although a Danny Rose volley at the other end could have snatched what would have been three undeserved points. Ultimately a point for both sides had its positives. For the Shakers it made it a reasonable 7 points from a possible 12 in there last four games, keeping them within touching distance of the Play Offs although dropping a place to tenth in the process. Wycombe meanwhile stayed top of the division after the share of the points, the side with the best away record in the League remain on course for a shock promotion. Should Bury get their act together soon expect both sides to finish in the top seven spots come May.

Attendance: 2932 (270 Wycombe)

Bury Wycombe Match Report

African Cup of nations. Expect the unexpected

You would have thought that the African football federation CAF would have got their act together by now. It’s 2015 and Africa is the fastest growing economy on Earth yet still the same problems that have been around for decades persist like they do at every International tournament that African teams take part in. We all know them. Match fixing rumours, player fallouts and bonus related disputes are personal favorites but this year we have even had Ebola making a surprise appearance, causing the tournament hosts Morocco to pull out and the less than ready Equatorial Guinea to step in. The word farce does not do the situation justice. Thank God for the football.

What else should we look out for? Well attendances should be poor, a fact almost expected by the organizers with one of the host city’s stadiums holding just 5,000 seats. It’s hard to believe that this is genuinely an international tournament at times, a tournament that is supposed to be on par with the European Championships, the Copa America, the Asia Cup and even the Gold Cup yet in terms of infrastructure and preparation is ridiculously poor. The 2012 edition of the Cup, held also partly in Equatorial Guinea ominously, even had the strange situation where reportedly just 132 people turned up to watch Sudan face Burkina Faso. Alright it wasn’t exactly El Classico but I would have gone if it was played in England. Maybe.

On the bright side look out for a shock country to make an impression on the tournament. Last time out in 2013 it was Burkina Faso who made it all the way to the final only to lose narrowly to Nigeria. Expect them to do well this time out. Similarly in 2012 Zambia were the surprise package of the tournament, winning the Cup against all odds although the decision to host another tournament a year later rather harshly stopped Zambia from taking part in the Confederation Cup of 2013. The African Cup of Nations provides the lesser countries with a chance to go far in the competition in a way that very rarely occurs in the European Championships. Other than Greece back in 2004 the common winners of the tournament have been European powerhouses such as Spain, France, Germany and Holland who have won five of the last seven Championships. In the African Cup of Nations it’s hard to rule out any of the 16 participants going far in the competition simply because of the unknown factor. Anyone can beat anyone on their day and that makes the competition compulsive viewing in many respects. If you’re into that sort of thing.

As for the Premier League representation, Manchester City star Yaya Toure and new teammate Wilfried Bony will be hoping to win the competition for perennial underachievers Ivory Coast for the first time since 1992. The so-called golden generation that began at the 2006 World Cup headed by Didier Drogba has all but gone after failing to deliver what their potential promised. This will be the first tournament without Drogba for the Ivory Coast and it will be intriguing to see how they fare without him. Personally I think the omission of such a big character in the dressing room will help the players to thrive without having to play under constant pressure from the big man. Also look out for Everton winger Christian Atsu with Ghana and Nabil Bentaleb and Riyad Mahrez from Spurs and Leicester respectively for Algeria. Algeria’s World Cup heroics suggest they will go far in the tournament but alas with the Cup of Nations you never know.

So, it may be a poor relation compared to the World Cup but at least the AFCON provides wall to wall coverage of Africa’s finest (minus Nigeria) and with a very good chance of at least one shock country going far and no penalties for England to miss. What’s not to like?

African Cup of nations. Expect the unexpected

Ched Evans. Where next

So last week we saw the ridiculous events at Oldham Athletic unfold, concluding with a man who had served the allotted time required by law in prison still unable to get a job now that he is out and League one club Oldham Athletic still in need of a striker. The winners in this unsavory episode? Nobody, well “mob rule” perhaps can claim to have won, a victory for the people? Didn’t feel like it to me but alas the episode is over in many respects. Time for football to move on.

Or is it? Ched Evans was (is) a three million pound striker. A Welsh international. A product of the Manchester City academy. And still a free transfer who is likely to be willing to work for peanuts in football terms, perhaps £400-£600 pound a week. Are we to believe that a desperate club, perhaps one in danger of losing its Football League status, would not swoop in for a man who is ultimately a very talented footballer? Unlikely. Picture the scene. Its March of this year, Carlisle for example (admittedly it could be anyone but the two clubs below them currently in the football league have made public that they won’t sign Mr Evans) are staring a second successive relegation in the face. Crowds are low, morale is low and Keith Curle is in need of a striker. Enter Ched Evans to sign a short term contract fire in some goals and guide Carlisle to safety. Faced with the prospect of relegation and a huge loss in income or the chance to sign Evans whilst admittedly a few sponsors pulling out its likely the financial repercussions would be worse for the former. Now Evans would certainly be a wanted man that summer if those events did take place. He would have proved that he still can score goals. Which brings me to my next point, what is stopping clubs from signing Evans.

We are led to believe that convicted rapist Ched Evans (you can’t read an article without hearing those two words precede his name) is not being snapped up by a club because he is exactly that in the eyes of the law, a convicted rapist. But I want to challenge that. We have already seen players come out of prison and go back into the game with little fanfare, even those whose actions have even resulted in the deaths of others (Lee Hughes. Luke McCormick spring to mind) so why is it this particular case which has struck such a chord with the British public. Maybe its because of the rape conviction rate which is disastrously low, roughly 8%, and people are thinking, damn we’ve caught Evans we have to make an example of him. Now if that’s the case that is wrong. The law of the land can not be written on the back of a postcard nor can a petition, yes that fabled petition which received 70,000 signatures or whatever the final number was, decide the fate of a convicted criminal. You do worry where it will all end up, maybe its because of the climate of reality TV that people think they can sign a petition and decide someones fate. Hey, maybe we should create a TV show and ask the public to vote on who is allowed a job after coming out of prison? Nothing fails to surprise me these days.

So where do we go next? Hopefully somewhere a little more positive. A place where politicians don’t offer an opinion in the hope that it will gain them a few votes in the election, (yes Ed Milliband i’m talking about you) and a place a where the law of the land holds a little more sway than it currently appears to. I agree Ched Evans should have received a longer sentence for the act he committed. I am as against rape and sexual violence as the next guy, but the sentencing took place in 2012. The people do not have the power to sentence someone a second time. It’s important to remember that.

Ched Evans. Where next