Manager Nigel Clough has broken his silence on the Ched Evans saga, insisting that the shamed striker’s impending return to training with Sheffield United is “not a top priority” with the club facing four vital matches in the space of ten days.
Clough, whose side visit Walsall tonight in the JPT, travel to South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers this weekend before hosting Crewe in an FA Cup replay, and then facing Oldham in the league.
And Clough, who revealed he had been consulted “like every other employee” before the decision was made to allow Evans to train with the club, said: “There is no timescale in terms of how long he will train with us and, in all honestly, it’s not our top priority. Instead, we’ve got four games in the next ten days which will shape our season and decide whether or not we’re still in two cup competitions, and back in the top six in the league.
“So that’s where our focus is, not on some player who’s training with us.
“He’s doing so in accordance with the law and a PFA request to get fit, and be able to do his job again - whether that’s with us, or somewhere else. That’s nowhere near being decided yet.”
Evans was released from prison last month after serving half of his five-year sentence for rape. He still maintains his innocence.
Asked why the club have not yet made a decision, Clough replied: “It goes in stages. How can you sign a player who hasn’t played football for two years and seven months? No-one’s in a position to do that.
“We issued a statement saying we’re aware of public deliberations on this matter and we’ve taken a decision, after several weeks, after taking all these facts in consideration. The next step is to sort out some kind of training programme for him.”
Former United community patron Charlie Webster resigned from her post yesterday, insisting that the FA should have clear guidelines to instruct clubs who want to sign convicted criminals.
But Clough added: “I don’t agree because anything like that can’t go above the law of the land. We’re football people not politicians, they decide the law of the land in Parliament and all we can do is follow that and adhere to it.”