SHEFFIELD UNITED has yet to decide whether convicted rapist Ched Evans will be allowed to play for them again after he is released from prison this week, manager Nigel Clough said today.
Clough said the decision about whether the striker will return to Bramall Lane will be taken by the club’s owners.
Evans, 25, is due to be released this week after serving half of a five-year sentence imposed in April 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room.
Many Sheffield United fans are convinced the club will allow the Welsh international to return but more than 90,000 people have signed a petition urging the Blades not to welcome him back.
Today, Clough said: “We have had one or two discussions, we are awaiting a decision and the owners will make that in good time.”
Speaking at a club press conference he said: “I have been involved in decisions, but it is very much a decision for the owners and when the time is right to say something as a club we will do that.
“It is that sort of decision - it’s above football level.
“It’s my decision whether to put him in the team if he comes back, it’s not my decision whether he comes back in the first place - that’s theirs.
“Until the decision is made there is no point talking about it.
“It’s not been a distraction within the camp. First of all he’s not out yet and secondly the club haven’t made a decision and until those two things happen it is irrelevant.”
Evans is understood to be due for release on Friday.
He was jailed for raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in North Wales.
Evans denied the offence but was found guilty by a jury at Caernarfon Crown Court.
He admitted having sex with her but the woman told the jury she had no memory of the incident.
The prosecution said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was too drunk to consent to sexual intercourse.
Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald also admitted having sex with the victim but was found not guilty of the same charge.
An appeal against Evans’s conviction was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal in 2012.
His girlfriend, Natasha Massey, has led a campaign to have the conviction overturned.
Yesterday, she said stood by him because she feels “protective” towards him.
Miss Massey told ITV’s This Morning she put her feelings about his cheating to one side to support him through his trial and prison and she said she has visited him every week in prison and said her family back her stance.
She said she is not sure what he will do when he is released, but he hopes to play professional football again.
“It’s out of our hands,” she said.
“We don’t know about Ched’s football - I’m just his partner, I don’t get involved in the football side - but I do know that Ched would love to return to football and continue doing what he knows best and what he loves.”
Her comments came after TV presenter Judy Finnigan said on the ITV show Loose Women, that the 25-year-old’s crime was “not violent” and did not cause “bodily harm”.
She also said the 6ft striker’s victim had “far too much to drink”.
Finnigan, who was making her debut on the show, released a statement apologising afterwards.
Evans scored 48 goals in 113 games for the Blades before his imprisonment, including 35 in 42 games during the 2011/12 campaign which was cut short due to his trial and conviction.
He has been capped 13 times for his country.