Ched Evans: Hartlepool strongly deny reports they plan to sign convicted rapist

New manager Ronnie Moore yesterday hinted interest

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Hartlepool United have denied reports linking them with a move to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.

The former Sheffield United striker was released from prison in October after serving half of a five-year sentence for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in 2011.

New manager Ronnie Moore had previously refused to deny speculation that he would offer the 25-year-old a contract. Hartlepool are seven points adrift at the bottom of League Two.

"It's a possibility. If it could happen, I'd want it to," the 61-year-old manager said.

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"He is a proven scorer, he's served his time and the boy wants to play football.

"He has made a mistake and maybe he hasn't apologised in the right way - and I know he has an appeal case pending - but if he gets on the park, he would go a long way to getting us out of trouble."

Labour MP for Hartlepool Iain Wright was outraged at the prospect of Evans signing for the club.

Ronnie Moore has recently become bottom club Hartlepool’s third manager of the season

He said: "I really hope we don't. I love my club, I love Hartlepool United. There's a reason why no other team in the Football League wants to sign him - he is a pariah.

"I was at the match today. There were lots of young lads there supporting Hartlepool United. I just think it sends out such a wrong message to young men in terms of it being OK for a rapist to play football. It's entirely wrong."

Sheffield United last month retracted an offer to allow Evans to train with them after strong opposition from prominent figures in the region.

TV presenter Charlie Webster, pop star Dave Berry and businesswoman Lindsay Graham all resigned as patrons of the club while Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill said she would want her name removed from one of the Bramall Lane stands.

Jessica Ennis-Hill has warned she will withdraw her name from the stands at Sheffield Unity if convicted rapist Ched Evans is re-signed

In the wake of increased media attention, however, Hartlepool have followed Sheffield United's lead and announced their intention to look elsewhere.

A statement read: "Hartlepool United do not intend signing Ched Evans and, for the avoidance of doubt, will not be doing so, irrespective of his obvious ability as a football player.

"After a highly positive week at Hartlepool United following the takeover by new owners and the appointment of a new manager, the owners are saddened by this unfortunate turn of events and wish to draw a line under it immediately."

Pools chairman Peter Harris added: "We are upset at the manner in which this story has escalated and wish to make it clear that the player will not be joining the Club.

“All we are concentrating on is league survival and do not want anything to upset that goal.

“The Club regrets any upset that may have been caused but we feel we must deal with this matter quickly and put the story to bed once and for all."