Player Profile: Ronnie Wallwork
Winning the Premier League with Manchester United isn’t an obvious route into crime, but just 10 years after being a part of a title winning team, Ronnie Wallwork was sentenced to spend 15 months at Her Majesty’s pleasure for receiving stolen goods.
Having won the FA Youth Cup in 1995, been voted Young Player of the Year a year later, as well as representing England at the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship, Wallwork’s career was blossoming as he looked to deliver on his great promise, which resulted in him making an impact on Ferguson’s first team in the 2000/01 season.
However, the combative defender/midfielder had already set about making a reputation away from the pitch, a trait that would ultimately define his career.
In 1999, during a loan spell with United’s Belgian feeder club, Royal Antwerp, Wallwork was given a lifetime ban for grabbing referee Amand Ancion by the throat in an incident that also involved Danny Higginbotham, after the second division side lost a play-off match to La Louviere.
Alex Ferguson was quoted as saying at the time in the Belgian press: “You would expect such a verdict in Russia, not in Belgium,” and despite the Scots xenophobic remark the ban was eventually overturned to allow him to play in England.
However, not all were happy with the decision, in particular, Antwerp secretary Paul Bistiaux: “We don’t want these players to be cleared; they did something that was unacceptable.”
Clearly an admirer of the versatile Salford born player though, Ferguson overlooked this indiscretion as he welcomed him into United’s first-team squad the following year.
Wallwork made enough appearances to earn a title medal in 2001, but the arrivals of Laurent Blanc and Juan Sebastian Veron the following summer deemed him surplus to requirements and he left for West Brom in what Ferguson described as the “best Bosman of the summer”.
Appearing as a regular in the Baggies first season in the Premier League, Wallwork found himself out of favour the following year, but Bradford manager Bryan Robson took him on loan and restored him to the West Brom starting line-up upon his appointment as manager in 2004, resulting in his career best spell and being voted club Player of the Year.
The arrival of Tony Mowbray signaled the end of Wallwork’s employment at the Hawthorns though and he was loaned to Barnsley in November 2006, but actions away from the pitch conspired to scupper his career revival.
Only a week after joining the Tykes, Wallwork was stabbed seven times in the hand, back and stomach in Manchester’s Sugar Lounge nightclub.
Just like in Belgium seven years earlier, Wallwork’s career was once again under threat from an incident away from the field of play; although this time he wasn’t the instigator.
Out with his girlfriend Amy Broadbent, he was approached by her former partner, Robert Rimmer, who asked him to leave. When Wallwork refused to do so, Rimmer revealed a fish knife.
The former England Under-20 international needed life saving-surgery and spent ten days in hospital. His attacker was handed a five and a half year jail term.
Huddersfield offered him a return to first team action in a loan deal in September 2007, but he moved to Sheffield Wednesday for free in January 2008, however, he only managed seven first team appearances and retired at the age of 31, after a trial with Carlisle failed to yield a contract offer.
A number of business ventures failed, before he returned to the attention of football fans when on 18 January 2011, he was charged with handling stolen cars.
Following the unconnected shooting of a security guard and a series of armed robberies across Lancashire, police chanced upon Wallwork driving a number of stolen cars into the 10 Arches Scrapyard in Manchester, to be sold for parts, to complete his fall from grace.
In his defence Rachel Woods said her client “succumbed to temptation in a stage of his life when his finances had taken a dramatic turn for the worse” to cap a career of promise that will now forever be remembered for his indiscretions off the pitch.Tags: Amand Ancion, Manchester United, Premier League, Ronnie Wallwork, West Brom
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