The girlfriend of convicted rapist and star striker Ched Evans has stood by him because she feels “protective” towards him.
Natasha Massey said she put her feelings about his cheating to one side to support him through his trial and prison.
In 2012 he was jailed for five years for raping a 19-year-old in a hotel room.
Ms Massey has visited him every week in prison, she told ITV’s This Morning, and said her family back her stance.
He is expected to be released this month, having served half his sentence, sparking debate about whether he should be welcomed back to football.
Evans was a star of the Sheffield United team and played for Wales.
His partner told presenters Phillip Schofield and Amanda Holden it was “heartbreaking” to be told he had cheated on her.
“As soon as I found out that he’d been questioned over rape, my instinct was kind of protective of Ched, and I thought I have to stand by him,” she said.
“So my thoughts and feelings over the cheating were put to one side and I just stepped in to help him through this terrible time.”
She still believes in his innocence despite the jury’s verdict, saying: “I had been with him for two-and-a-half years.
“I know Ched and I knew he wouldn’t be capable of committing a crime like that.”
She has visited him every week.
“It was difficult at first. I never dreamed that Ched would be sent to prison,” she said.
“But straight away I got a message to him to say that I was standing by him and that everything will be OK... at first it was difficult, but then you adapt.”
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.”
Meanwhile, a police and crime commissioner has added to the criticism of TV presenter Judy Finnigan, who made controversial comments about the case.
On the ITV show Loose Women, Finnigan said 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”.
Northumbria police and crime commissioner Vera Baird, who campaigns about violence against women, said: “He raped her – that is a serious injury and undermines some people for life.”
And about the victim being drunk, Ms Baird said: “What has this got to do with this if he forced himself upon her?
“If you get drunk and someone steals your wallet, does this mean it’s any less of a theft than if you were sober?”
Finnigan, who was making her debut on the show, released a statement afterwards, saying: “I apologise unreservedly for any offence that I may have caused as a result of the wording I used.
“I absolutely wasn’t suggesting that rape was anything other than an horrendous crime and, as I said on the programme, I was in no way attempting to minimise the terrible ordeal that any woman suffers as a result.
“The point I was attempting to raise as part of the debate was what should happen to someone after they have committed a crime and served their time?”