In my formative years, my idol wasn’t the most common amongst my peers. Whilst they cavorted around with their bleached bonces a la Paul Gascoigne of Glasgow Rangers fame, the name scratched into my steel Ghostbusters pencilcase was Steve ‘The Nugget’ Davis. The 6-times World Champion who had all the charisma of the pencilcase he was so lovingly engraved upon was the man I chose to idolise.
It wasn’t so much the glory he reaped on a regular basis, nor the fact that he was a regular on primetime BBC1 gameshow ‘Big Break’ which was so expertly fronted by Jim Davidson & waistcoated assistant John Virgo. The fact I chose Steve Davis as the subject of many Halloween outfits and to be my imaginary companion – was that Davis was the perfect ambassador for his sport.
At the time Davis’s star was at its brightest, snooker was at its zenith in terms of popularity. The sport was full of lovable rogues and genuine characters that only served to enhance what is a pedestrian sport. Alex Higgins and Jimmy White possessed far more natural talent and spectator appeal than the Ginger Prince, but their drunken antics and style of play did nothing to entice me. Steve worked harder on his game than any other and perseverance more than anything elevated him to the highest echelons of the game. He proved that with dedication and grit – you really can make your dreams come true.
Fast forward a few decades and we have scandals a plenty in the world of football. From the Qatar World Cup debacle to players smoking cigarettes – there isn’t a shortage of drama in the great game.
The headline grabber and the story that refuses to die quietly though is Ched Evans and his quest to resume playing after serving time in prison as punishment for being convicted of rape.
Now released from prison, he wishes to resume the playing career he had before his conviction. From petitions signed by the thousands to celebrities and politicians expressing their opinions surrounding him – we all have our views.
Several clubs have tentatively expressed an interest in a man who still maintains his innocence – but these clubs – now including Oldham Athletic – have all pulled out of the reckoning once the the glaring eye of furore settled upon them.
Does Evans deserve a second chance? That would be a question that only his victim can answer. Whilst there will be crossed words and barbed comments from both sides of the topic, one thing should be cut and dried. The man does not warrant such a privileged position as a professional footballer.
A man in such an esteemed capacity as this – no matter the stature of the club he plies his trade for – will have fans of varying age with posters of his image on the wall. They will have replica jerseys emblazoned with his name. If he scores important goals then merchandise will flow. Much like the aforementioned Gazza haircut – fans of all ages reserve a special place for players who achieve for their club. To be a fan of a club is to tattoo your heart. It is permanent and heightens any highs and lows you feel. Ched Evans – if he manages to persuade a club to sign him – will therefore inevitably get a second chance to become a hero.
There is precedence for convicted criminals to resurrect their careers. Luke McCormick returned to playing after serving a jail sentence and Lee Hughes also resumed his career after serving time at HMP. Widely condemned by the media and the public – these players received a second chance to start afresh and enjoy a career that most people can only attain through dreams.
The judicial system in the UK means that once the sentence is served then you have paid for your crimes. Penance, atonement has been done and once the subject walks free from the high walls and high security then they are free to resume whatever life they see fit. Ched Evans is free to choose the path he wishes. A professional footballer isn’t a public footpath however. It is one that is treaded on by men that should understand the values and responsibilities they need to uphold.
The lavish lifestyle and ability to retire and enjoy the spoils early is a reward for treading in a steadfast manner. Rigid diet, Limited social life. Treating your body like the temple it is. Recognising and embracing the pedestal you are placed upon by adoring fans. It is a giddy vantage point and the occasional stumble is forgiven but quickly chastised. Ched Evans did not stumble though. He fell off the pedestal and proceeded to set fire to it. For him to even expect to play professional football again highlights his overall approach to the crime he committed.
Steve Davis, David Beckham, Rory Mcilroy and countless others realise what a fantastic opportunity they have or have had. Take up a trade, enjoy the fact you once more have your liberty. Your victim cannot do the same, trapped by the nightmares of that night. To even consider a return to the spotlight is a sure fire indication that remorse is not the emotion that is driving you. You had your chance.