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Vincent Hogan: Ched Evans saga is a morality play that lost its way

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Football is tearing itself apart trying to deal responsibly with the Ched Evans case, a narrative running in such contradictory lines.

Football is tearing itself apart trying to deal responsibly with the Ched Evans case, a narrative running in such contradictory lines.

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Gerrard's match-winning goals at Kingsmeadow on Monday night stiffened the inevitable chorus of outrage over Liverpool's failure to keep him at Anfield beyond this summer

Gerrard's match-winning goals at Kingsmeadow on Monday night stiffened the inevitable chorus of outrage over Liverpool's failure to keep him at Anfield beyond this summer

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Armagh, and Tyrone during a first half incident which saw 2 red Cards issued. Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup, Group C, Round 1, Armagh v Tyrone. Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

Armagh, and Tyrone during a first half incident which saw 2 red Cards issued. Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup, Group C, Round 1, Armagh v Tyrone. Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

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Football is tearing itself apart trying to deal responsibly with the Ched Evans case, a narrative running in such contradictory lines.

Is it not profoundly odd when a man apologises for something he claims he did not do? That was Ched Evans this week, faced with the inconvenience of professional football pulling what seemed a last, decisive collar up against his efforts to return to the game.

He has been out of prison almost three months but only on Wednesday did the concept of remorse suddenly find apparent traction in his bid to be rehabilitated.

So Ched apologised "for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned."

At the same time, that chronically ill-advised website bearing his name - funded by the father of his fiancee - continued to declare that "Ched did not commit the crime of rape at all."

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Indeed, the same website continued to offer CCTV footage of the victim's arrival at the Premier Inn that fateful evening with the suggestion that viewers "judge for yourself" her level of drunkenness.

So Ched is sorry. And Ched is innocent. Ched has served his time and Ched will "fight to clear his name". Ched, it seems, is contrite only in so far as it is of value be so.

Football, meanwhile, is tearing itself apart trying to deal responsibly with a narrative running in such contradictory lines.

This week we got reputed death threats against some of those associated with the idea of giving him a new start at Oldham. We even got the allegation of a rape threat made against one of the board's daughters.

We got, in essence, the voice of morality becoming uncivilised, loutish, even menacing.

Yesterday, Twitter was ablaze with English football writers turning on one another in apparent desperation to claim the most nuanced, adult response to this story of a convicted rapist and his right to a second chance.

Evans himself seemed to become less important than an ability to claim journalistic depth.

In the eyes of the law, he has served his sentence. Yet he seems unemployable now, given just how devastatingly Oldham came to realise this week how, on every conceivable level, recruiting him would have been ruinous.

The club seemed hopelessly out of its depth when the storm blew, as if they'd been victims of some kind of news black-out in recent weeks. The morality play had all but lost its bearings. Good became indistinguishable from bad.

Professional football can seem hopelessly clumsy at these junctures simply because it is under-qualified to even process morals, let alone govern them. So PFA chief Gordon Taylor shockingly blundered into a comparison between the betrayed families of Hillsborough and a convicted rapist looking for a job.

But it is worth asking what is society's plan for that rapist when sentence is served?

Luke McCormick killed two children when drunk behind the wheel of a car, yet is captain of Plymouth Argyle today. Lee Hughes went straight back into football after doing time for causing death by dangerous driving.

Is it wrong that they were rehabilitated in the game? More pertinently, who is suitably qualified to answer that question?

In a week that freedom of speech came under murderous attack in Paris, you might have thought it a good time to argue for the right of someone to pick up the threads of their life, given the judicial system deemed them free to do so.

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But that right has been roundly shouted down in Evans' case.

Why? Probably because he cuts such an odiously unsympathetic figure, the ongoing hostility towards his victim on that noxious website flying in the face of this week's craven apology.

Trouble is, the lines are hopelessly blurred here between a technical interpretation of justice and the palpable public appetite to see Evans disappear. Which is preferable?

Society's answer is, undeniably, the latter and so his hopes of a return to professional football now seem doomed.

Few tears will be shed on that basis and there will, no doubt, be broad relief that we are thus spared the almost inevitable idiot eulogies a terrace minority would summon for this man whose supporters have already so utterly shamed both him and themselves.

For most us, Ched Evans can simply go to hell now. He is football's latest Beelzebub, opportunistic, graceless, rotten.

But is it in our gift to send him?

Honest Gerrard rejects the 'victim' bait

How inconvenient of Steven Gerrard to continue speaking warmly of Brendan Rodgers when the football world hungers, palpably, for evidence of friction between the two.

Gerrard's match-winning goals at Kingsmeadow on Monday night stiffened the inevitable chorus of outrage over Liverpool's failure to keep him at Anfield beyond this summer.

For any supporter of the club, the narrative of a betrayed hero is undoubtedly seductive.

If there has long been ambiguity about Gerrard's best position, there has surely been none about his capacity to impact games dramatically.

The bravery required for his opening goal against Wimbledon reminded us of the essential warrior spirit that, even now, ennobles Gerrard in a profession that has made millionaires out of some of the most spineless characters imaginable.

Yet, remarkably, it was also his first goal from open play in a year. True, Rodgers' re-invention of him last season changed Gerrard's priorities, but the idea that a goal sniped against League Two opposition might highlight Liverpool's folly is nonsense.

I suspect Rodgers genuinely wanted Gerrard to remain a Liverpool player, if only because there is no-one else in his dressing-room today that could be trusted over a penalty or free-kick in pressured circumstance.

But he was honest enough to tell Gerrard of the role he envisaged for him, a role in which game-time would be carefully rationed. And Gerrard reciprocated that honesty by acknowledging that his pride could not countenance peripheral status in a dressing-room he has essentially dominated for so long.

The manager may come to regret his decision, of course. But at least he was man enough to make it.

Armagh and Tyrone need to park old squabbles

Was there not something lamentably wearying about the images of Armagh and Tyrone footballers ringing in the New Year last Sunday?

Early January in the Athletic Grounds and grown men squaring up to one another with - to those on the outside at least - inexplicable anger.

This, after all, was the Dr McKenna Cup, one of those unglamorous pre-season competitions that always seem freighted with the general post-Christmas gloom.

Yet more people attended the game than were present at the Dundalk-Cork City Airtricity League title shoot-out last October.

Why? Presumably because of a prevailing energy between the counties that guarantees something explosive whenever they collide on the same football pitch.

How the optics of that collision sit with a broader audience is presumably immaterial to those who piled through the gates. Doubtful too if the managers care a whit.

Mickey Harte and Kieran McGeeney are two of the most intelligent, considered GAA voices, but the terms of engagement now demanded in certain Ulster rivalries appear to over-ride any interest in how the broader world might interpret those rivalries.

McGeeney, incidentally, was right to reference the absence of a clearly defined tackle as a continuing issue for Gaelic football.

But 19 cards? Does it really matter all that much what a rule-book says or how a referee chooses to adhere to that book if the two teams seem to have only a passing interest in playing the game?

It may not always show you what you want to see but, sometimes, truth is in the mirror.

Irish Independent