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, of Penistone, 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.
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.
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.”