THE fixture backlog caused by the incessant rain throughout January and February is catching up with Basingstoke Town, who were missing six players for Tuesday’s defeat to Eastbourne Borough.

Four of them are central midfielders, and with all of them likely to miss tomorrow’s trip to Sutton United, manager Jason Bristow has indicated that he may bring back on-loan Reading midfielder Matt Partridge.

In theory, that’s a sensible move. Partridge is a quality player who operates in exactly the area where Town need bodies at the moment.

However, the issue is clouded by the 19-year-old’s off-field problems, which revolve around an ongoing court case for a serious assault, which could, at least in theory, result in Partridge going to prison.

I wasn’t in the courtroom, but here is a report of proceedings from Newbury Magistrates Court, which appeared on a national newspaper’s website earlier this month:

I think you’ll agree that it doesn’t make for particularly good reading and I personally feel that Town should not touch the player with a bargepole.

The attack happened last year. Town were not aware of the problem when they first took Partridge on loan, only finding out when the story came out in the press.

They took him back a second time, but that was perhaps understandable as Partridge was claiming that his actions had been carried out in self-defence. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

However, that has now been thrown out, with the teenager facing sentence for a violent road-rage attack. Is he really going to be in the right place mentally to play football to the best of his ability?

More to the point, is this really the sort of person that Town wish to be associated with, especially with a high-profile sentencing hearing around the corner?

Like all football clubs, Town want to attract families to games. Is getting involved with a person who has commited a crime like this the right way to go about it?

The main problem is that Partridge is a very good footballer. Town miss him when he doesn’t play, and with their current injury problems, it might be argued that they cannot afford not to bring him back.

I would disagree. Will Partridge be the difference between Basingstoke reaching the play-offs or not? I doubt it. That ship may already have sailed.

There seems little to be gained from having him for a couple of games, especially when this is weighed up against the damage that being associated with this story could do to the club’s standing in the community.

That’s before you consider Partridge’s on field digressions in his time at the Camrose. He has been sent off once, for intentionally stamping on an opponent, and by all accounts, was fortunate not to suffer the same fate after a reckless challenge in a different game.

Let’s face facts for a second though. In my opinion, there is little or no morality in football.

You only have to look at the career of Marlon King, who never seemed to struggle for a club despite spending two separate spells behind bars, one for assault on a woman, to see how the beautiful game operates towards convicted criminals.

However, does that mean that Town should simply take Partridge back? Or should they take a stand?

For me, the biggest issue has to do with money (doesn’t it always?). I’m not entirely sure how the loan system works, whether Town pay Partridge’s wages while he is with them or give Reading a loan fee.

Either way, it’s likely that they will be paying something for his services. This means that, if he plays against Tonbridge Angels on Tuesday night, supporters who watch the match will probably be helping to pay his wages while he waits to be sentenced for a violent assault.

Is that something people are comfortable with? I’m not sure that I am.

Have your say by using the comment box below or Tweet me @JBoymanGazette.