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.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin