Ched Evans, who faces a retrial over rape allegations in October, has joined League One side Chesterfield on a one-year deal.
Former Wales striker Evans was jailed in 2012 for raping a 19-year-old woman, but had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal in April.
The 27-year-old, who has always denied the charges against him, was released from jail in October 2014 after serving half of a five-year sentence.
His last professional game was in 2012.
‘Great deal of thought’ to signing
Chesterfield have requested that Evans be given space to concentrate on pre-season training with the club.
“We are delighted to have secured the services of an outstanding footballer, who is now keen to get back to work and score goals,” Chesterfield chairman Dave Allen said.
“[Manager] Danny Wilson knows Ched very well, having previously managed him at Sheffield United. Chris Morgan, our first-team coach, also speaks highly of him from their time together at Bramall Lane.
“Chesterfield Football Club have given a great deal of thought to this signing and following the court’s decision, we are in no doubt that Ched Evans should be welcomed back into his profession as a professional footballer.”
Evans added: “I am very excited and privileged to be resuming my career at Chesterfield and I hope to make a valuable contribution both on and off the pitch for the football club, the fans and the community.”
Retrial set for October
Evans’ conviction was referred to the Court of Appeal following a 10-month investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which found new information not raised at his original trial.
CCRC chairman Richard Foster said at the time: “In this case we have identified new material which was not considered by the jury at trial and which in our view might have assisted the defence.
“In those circumstances, it is right and proper for the matter to be before the court so that they can decide whether or not the new information should affect the verdict.”
A panel of three judges then decided at a two-day hearing to allow the retrial, having heard “fresh evidence” from Evans’ lawyers.
Lady Justice Hallett said: “In summary, we have concluded that we must allow the appeal and that it is in the interests of justice to order a retrial.”
Spireites ‘wouldn’t sign him’
The ex-Manchester City, Norwich and Sheffield United striker came close to joining League One side Oldham Athletic in January 2015, before the club pulled out of the deal following threats to their staff and pressure from sponsors.
Evans also had an offer to use the Blades’ training facilities rescinded in November 2014 after more than 170,000 people signed a petition against the move.
Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill asked for her name to be removed from a stand at Bramall Lane if he re-signed for the South Yorkshire side, and three club patrons resigned.
In a BBC survey of League One and League Two clubs following the Latics’ reversal, prior to the conviction being quashed, Chesterfield said in a statement: “Please note that we wouldn’t sign him”.
Evans’ career to date
Evans started his career with Premier League side Manchester City, but scored only once in 16 games having made his debut in September 2007.
The St Asaph-born striker had a more successful loan spell at then-Championship club Norwich during the 2007-08 season, and earned his first Wales cap in a 1-0 win over Iceland in May 2008, when he scored his only international goal.
He joined Sheffield United for a £3m fee in 2009, but struggled in his first two seasons with the club, scoring only 13 goals in 74 games.
His form improved dramatically in his final season with the Blades, as he found the net 35 times in 42 appearances, before being jailed six days after his final game – a 3-1 win over Leyton Orient.
Chief sports writer Tom Fordyce
Ched Evans last kicked a football as a professional player on Saturday, 14 April 2012.
He scored that afternoon for Sheffield United, his 35th goal of that League One season, but a four-year absence from the game renders much of his old form irrelevant when we come to ask, purely from a sporting perspective, whether Chesterfield have made the right decision.
Have those long months away from intense training, let alone matches themselves, cost him speed, touch, strength and confidence?
How will he cope with being the subject of both intense media interest and inevitable terrace chants?
With his retrial scheduled for early October, Evans has a narrow window in which to remind the world what he was once best known for.
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