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By Matt Handley
Oxford United Football Club have sparked debate by signing a goalkeeper who was jailed in 2008 for causing the death of two small children by dangerous driving.
The Kassam Stadium outfit signed Luke McCormick from non-league team Truro City on transfer deadline day to help alleviate a recent goalkeeping injury crisis. However, much attention has been drawn to McCormick’s criminal past.
Having played for Plymouth Argyle between 2003 and 2008, McCormick’s contract was cancelled by mutual consent in July 2008 after he caused a car crash in which two children were killed. In October 2008, he was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison, for two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and driving with excessive alcohol.
After serving half of his sentence, McCormick was released from prison in June 2012 and then made his return to football with Truro City club in November 2012. However, his signing for Oxford United marks a return to the Football League.
The League Two side’s manager Chris Wilder acknowledged concerns, saying: “We are very mindful of the past and the situation. Luke is very contrite and sorry about what happened. He was sentenced and went to prison and during that time had the opportunity to reflect on what he had done.
“It is hard to separate the two, but purely from a football perspective he is an experienced goalkeeper who has played most of his games in League One and the Championship. We have a situation here where our number one goalkeeper is out for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury…We are offering Luke a chance to play again.”
The club’s Chairman, Ian Lenagan added: “The tragic events in Luke’s past will never go away and that is something he will have to bear for the rest of his days. He made the biggest mistake of his life and no amount of apologies will ever change what happened. He served his sentence and knows what he did was wrong.”
He continued: “As a club we have thought long and hard about whether to employ a player with his background but his clear repentance and the opportunity to allow him to rehabilitate whilst meeting our unique goalkeeping situation within the Salary Cap – which we might otherwise not have been able to do – resulted in our decision to sign him.”
McCormick becomes the second player on Oxford United’s books to have been convicted for causing death by dangerous driving. Winger Adam Chapman pleaded guilty to the offence in May 2009 and was sentenced in June 2012 to 30 months in a Young Offenders Institute. Chapman re-joined the club upon his release in September 2011.
Football fans have been given a mixed reaction to the signing. On an unofficial Oxford United supporters’ forum, a commenter named as ‘Hayfield Yellow’ posted: “I’m deeply conflicted about the appointment. Given that we already have Chapman on our books, and given the currently antipathy [sic] between (some) fans and management, I think it’s the wrong decision at the wrong time.”
However, ‘John47’ responded: “[McCormick] can never ever put the events of that night behind him nor can he ever forget the consequences to the parents from whom he snatched away their beloved children. But there comes a time when he has to try and pick up the pieces from his shattered life.”
Football fans throughout the University were similarly conflicted about the signing. Tom Christmas, a second-year PPEist at Lincoln, said: “The incident he was involved with was a horrible and reckless one, but I imagine he has suffered massively through the guilt and the prison sentence – I’m glad he is being given a chance to put his life back together and I hope he makes the most of it.”