Former Oldham midfielder Rick Holden does not see how convicted rapist Ched Evans “can survive” if he returns to football with his old club.
Evans has sparked new protests after it was revealed he has been in fresh talks with Athletic about joining the League One side.
Club bosses insisted in December they would not be offering Evans a contract or an opportunity to train but it is understood further talks have taken place since then and an announcement is expected today.
Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor revealed a League One club will hold a press conference today in relation to the signing of 26-year-old striker Evans, but would not name the club involved.
Evans wants to return to football after being released from prison in October.
He served two-and-a-half years of a five-year sentence after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2011 but has still protested his innocence. Oldham were not available for comment.
Holden was a part of one of Oldham’s greatest ever sides in 1990, when the club reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup, and he is not welcoming the links with Evans.
“I’m not comfortable with it at all, it’s one of those crimes that will never go away in my opinion,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I don’t see how the chap can survive actually, given the ferocity of football up and down the land, even if he did sign. I think it’s untenable.”
Having been linked with Evans, on December 1 Oldham had issued a statement saying: ”The board of directors would like to confirm that we will not be extending an invitation for Ched Evans to train with Oldham Athletic nor will we be offering him a contract. The club will not be making any further comment on this subject.”
But after Oldham were named as the club close to signing Evans on Sunday, an online petition against the move attracted more than 8,000 signatures within hours of being set up. That tally has now passed 20,000.
Evans had an offer to train with former club Sheffield United retracted in November following strong local opposition, while Tranmere and Hartlepool also rejected the opportunity to sign the 26-year-old striker.
He was initially given permission by the Blades to return to train with the club at the request of the PFA. But following a backlash from Blades supporters, sponsors and patrons opposed to Evans’ return – 160,000 people signed a petition against it – the club retracted the offer.
PFA chief Taylor said the players’ union had not asked any club to sign Evans but would support them doing so.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme: ”The club are due to hold the press conference tomorrow and I’ve made it clear to them that I cannot attend tomorrow.
”Bearing in mind what happened with his release and then of course the furore that we had at Sheffield United we feel that any club wishing to sign him needs to be 100 per cent committed to signing him for proper and legitimate football reasons.”
Any move to sign Evans is likely to lead to public outcry, but Taylor is keen to avoid a similar situation to the one that engulfed Sheffield United after they made their offer to the player.
”I don’t want to create a replica-type situation that we had at Sheffield (United) because I’m a little bit concerned that we need a press conference and that will invite, of course, many antagonists,” he said.
Taylor said the PFA appreciated the situation was ”very sensitive”, but reiterated its stance that Evans deserved the chance to resume his career following his release from prison.
”We’ve made it clear in our statements that we feel he’s been unable to say much because of the appeals process, but he has served his time and the job of society is to look to rehabilitate,” Taylor said.
On Friday Maltese side Hibernians revealed that they had made a contract offer to Evans for the remainder of the season, although the BBC quoted a spokesman for Evans denying the player received such an offer.
However, any move abroad is unlikely to materialise given the UK’s tough regime in managing sex offenders.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ”We are determined to have one of the toughest regimes in the world for managing sex offenders, to stop them re-offending and to protect victims.
”Probation officers must give permission for sex offenders on licence to take up new jobs and this includes ensuring they hold regular face to face meetings - this effectively rules out working abroad.
”The offenders will also be subject to strict conditions such as exclusion zones, non-contact orders and having to attend sex offender treatment programmes.”