David Flatman: My mate Matt will always have home at the Rec

No need to wrestle with your conscience – Stevens made a mistake but we'd be glad to have him back

People seem to have lots of different ideas about what constitutes true friendship. Some want to be the shoulder to cry on, others the honest ally to keep his contemporaries in check. I have friends who seem only truly comfortable during the good times and others to whom I turn in times of need. For me, the value of friendship is that we can all, despite our idiosyncrasies, exist together with enjoyment, tolerance and empathy.

Matt Stevens is my friend, and I hope he always will be. Sure, we do not speak every day or eat together every week. We sometimes share a coffee at his swanky new café, sometimes enjoy a beer in the same building, and we always do so as friends.

Last January, Matt received a two-year ban for taking a banned substance during competition – a huge blow to both career and reputation. How I would cope with this I do not know and hope never to find out, but the way he conducted himself immediately after the story broke, and continues to do, has elevated him, in my eyes, to a new place in the hearts and minds of the Bath players and public.

You see, Matt never denied having made a mistake. He didn't go down the "my drink got spiked" route. He just got on with it. No whining, no bitterness, just moving forward. Since then he has, with Lee Mears, opened the gorgeous Jika Jika Coffee Shop and Canteen in Bath. He has also become the British submission-wrestling champion. All this in roughly 10 months.

Was he not meant to sulk and blame someone else for a while first? Not a chance. And it is this character, not to mention his enviable level of rugby ability, which has made him hot property once again.

Lawrence Dallaglio, the one-man publicity machine, has already declared to the world an interest in giving Stevens a home at Wasps, who, in the words of Lawrence himself, are famed for taking in all sorts of waifs and strays. Now call me a pedant, but I would not put a champion wrestler and successful business director into either category.

What he is, is a great, great signing waiting to happen. Do not forget, Matt will be just 28 when his ban expires, and folk who seem to know their onions say that prop forwards do not reach their peak until at least the 30 mark.

So it was with real glee that I read the comments of Nick Blofeld, our CEO at Bath, stating our desire to bring Matt back to the Rec. Players come and go in this game and there seems to be little room for sentiment now that the result is everything, but to see Matt run out for another club would, to me, be very sad. He was so at home in Bath and he really suited it. The sociable, cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city after dark, the easy, laid-back team breakfasts by the river and 30-second commute from home to work (early starts are not a strength). He just fitted in and we loved having him here.

Of course, with big Davey Wilson and wily veteran (or just "old") Duncan Bell – both incumbent internationals – fit and firing, we are not exactly struggling on the tighthead side of the scrum, but that really is not the point. Matt is a wonderful rugby player, probably the best ball-carrying prop on the planet. He is a big, confident, opinionated, intelligent, guitar-playing wrestler with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of coffees of the world. He has an awful lot going for him and just one thing hanging over his head.

So ask yourself, as a friend, would you ostracise the man who made a mistake purely because he should have known better? Would you, from a safe distance, cast aspersions on him because all highly paid athletes who commit social errors are to be executed for appearing too human?

I wouldn't. I would bring him back and watch him grow again. It is not about him proving a point, nor is it about Bath signing another big name. This is about sending a message that compassion is not a weakness. Matt may sport a particularly posh South African accent but he is a Bath boy now and here, among his friends, he always has a home.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living