Jailed Evans 'set to rejoin United'
11:09am Wednesday 13th August 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Footballer Ched Evans, who was jailed for a raping a woman in a hotel room, will be welcomed back by Sheffield United when he is released from prison, according to a supporters' group.
Evans is due to be released in October after serving half of a five-year sentence imposed in April 2012.
His club has refused to comment on reports that he will be offered a new contract after he leaves prison but Alan Smith, from the official supporters' club, said he has been told Evans will be returning.
"I've been led to believe that is the case," he said.
"I've been told he will be back."
Mr Smith said he believes the majority of United fans will want Evans back despite an online petition of 59,000 people urging chairman Kevin McCabe to refuse to reinstate the 25-year-old striker.
"I think that for most supporters it's good he's coming back because of what he did for us before," he said.
"I think that he's served his time."
Mr Smith said he thought many United fans believed Evans was wrongly convicted.
The Welsh international was jailed for five years 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. She also believes he should be allowed to return to football even before any new appeal is heard.
She said: "Ched should be allowed to return to work.
"At the moment we don't know which football club that would be with, but he loved playing for Sheffield United. He did so well there and he was happy there.
"At the end of the day, it's what he did before and he wants to return to work. It's part of the rehabilitation process."
Ms Massey said Evans was keeping fit in prison and spending time preparing for his second appeal.
She said: "He's preparing to come home. All Ched wants is to clear his name. We've put in a second appeal and he's focused on that."
A Sheffield United spokesman said the club would not be commenting on the Evans situation today.
Jean Hatchet, whose online petition calling on Sheffield United not to reinstate Evans as a player at the club has received more than 61,000 signatures, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "I think it's crucial young people are given the right messages about sexual consent and rape - they should be given that in school obviously but the media and sport have a responsibility for that too.
"And reinstating Ched Evans in exactly the same prestigious and privileged position that he occupied before he raped a woman is a very dangerous message about the consequences of raping a woman in our society."