Belfast Telegraph

Ched Evans: Why Oldham were right to get offside when it came to deal

By Jane Graham

Although it fell through in the end, one wonders what brought Oldham Athletic so close to the brink of signing Ched Evans. My first thought on hearing of their intentions was, this guy must be a brilliant footballer. Why else would a "family" football club alienate two major sponsors and fly in the face of a 60,000 strong petition demanding they wash their hands of him? (A riposte petition backing Evans has so far attracted just 2,000 signatures; I imagine he wishes they'd left well alone, rather than expose the lack of public support).

Oldham owner Simon Corney said the club believed Evans had served his time. But there isn't much evidence of football clubs philanthropically employing players in order to aid their rehabilitation. Oldham must have believed Evans was the answer to their sporting prayers. And that they had the hide to withstand the tornado headed their way.

As it turned out, becoming the potential saviour of the man who is never mentioned by the media without the words "convicted rapist" in front of his name put Oldham too far out into the frontline of this ferocious argument. Their withdrawal will relieve campaigners who feel that football's reputation as a backwater playground for knuckle-draggers was further enhanced by their early enthusiasm. Football is already struggling with racism, homophobia and rampaging material greed, they will say.

And it's never had the best image when it comes to attitudes to women either, whether it's pundits laughing off-air about which women they'd like to "smash", or players allegedly lining up to "roast" young women in hotel rooms.

I am always wary of any kind of mob-rule response to a situation, and I know many of the anti-Evans petition-signatories will be only vaguely aware of the details of his case.

Where I do part company from the Evans' sympathisers, however - and it's a pretty decisive and irresolvable parting - is in my shuddering response to the "Ched is innocent" website Evans' friends, family and remarkably loyal girlfriend have dedicated to undermining the reputation of the "complainant" (whose identity has been exposed numerous times online, and who has had to move house five times to escape violent threats from Ched's less than gentlemanly supporters).

I veer even further from backing Evans when it comes to stuff he and his pal admit to doing. Clayton McDonald picked up the woman in a kebab shop and immediately texted Ched to tell him "I've got a bird" -what a handy alert system the lads have when the opportunity to have sex with a female comes along! Ched leapt into action and came directly to the hotel room where he found McDonald having sex with a drunk woman.

He didn't blush and say excuse me, as most folk with a shred of respect for other people would have done - he jumped into bed and joined in. He may well believe he didn't rape the girl, but the casual way he treated her, as a mindless receptacle for his sexual desire, is vile.

Yesterday's apology for "the effects that night has had on many people, not least the woman concerned" suggests regret that he was involved in something which has subsequently had a negative impact, but not shame regarding the lack of humanity in his past view and treatment of women. If he addressed that, it might help to persuade people like me that he really does deserve a second chance.

Let's find out why children self-harm

What sad news that schools are struggling to deal with increased numbers of children self-harming. I used to produce a Radio 1 programme called The Sunday Surgery; kids got to talk to our agony aunt, DJ Emma B, and resident doctor Mark Hamilton about their concerns.

Whenever we focused on self-harm, the phones went into meltdown; the nation, it turned out, was full of unhappy kids who secretly self-harmed to express their pain, and also, paradoxically, to console themselves.

Something's gone very wrong when there's a leap in the numbers doing so, in a time when budget cutbacks mean schools are less able to help them than ever.

TV shows that are criminally good

So this was a big week for telly drama with new series of Broadchurch, Silent Witness and Death in Paradise all kicking off. The first was intriguing, the second ludicrous (despite my soft spot for Gary Lightbody lookalike/soundalike David Caves), and the third gently enjoyable, due mainly to Samuel Pepys' radio incarnation Kris Marshall's comic likeability.

The really exciting news, though, was from BBC4 - a new series of the brilliant, sexy, atmos-heavy French crime show Spiral, part The Wire, part (and pre-cursor to) The Killing.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour tomorrow night and get acquainted with the gang. And the gangsters.

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