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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor