Oldham Athletic director Barry Owen, a former Greater Manchester Police superintendent, has welcomed news that there is an “80% likelihood” of convicted rapist Ched Evans signing for the League One club. Mr Owen, who was also instrumental in Oldham’s decision to sign ex-con Lee Hughes after he had served time for causing death by dangerous driving, was however scathing about the modern prison service and its patchy record of providing cheap players for the Boundary Park outfit.
“Her Majesty’s Prison Service can do better than this”, said the erstwhile top cop. “A club like ours is always looking for value on the field of play, and those who have done their porridge are the kind of likely lads the Athletic should always be looking for, in my view. We’ve now had two good lads coming through the HMP production line, and we’ll be on the lookout for more, if the Home Office can just get their bloody finger out. These guys are cheap as chips – and that’s the bottom line, after all.”
When it was put to Mr Owen that the Evans signing was likely to be even less popular among fans than that of Lee Hughes, he raised an eyebrow. “I don’t really see where you’re coming from, lad. Evans wants to play football, so we’re going to accommodate him, aren’t we? Makes sense. A few faint hearts were all for refusing him a contract – but after all, the lad was unlikely to take no for an answer…”
We put it to the former police officer that any decision to sign Evans might have severe implications for club sponsorship. “Storm in a teacup,” he scoffed. “These things blow over. Look at Bowyer and Woodgate at Leeds United. Proper fuss and bother, but that soon went away. Well, it did when they were transferred away from Leeds, anyway. We’re Oldham, lad. If we were Leeds, I wouldn’t dream of this sort of thing, the League would burn the ground down. Look at the kerfuffle over a bit of duty on a boat. But that’s Leeds, in’t it? We won’t have same sort of fuss here, mark my words.”
So are there no misgivings, no twinges of conscience? “Look lad, don’t be daft. That’s a £3 million striker there, and we could ‘ave him for as little as £400 a week. As long as he’s not actually in a cell, he’ll do for us at that price.”
A Latics Supporters Club spokesman, when asked for his take on the matter, would only reply with a glum but defiantly brief rendition of the club’s one and only song “Come on, Old-um“, before trailing away into the Lancastrian murk.
Barry Owen is 83, though his IQ is a youthful 60.