Ronnie Wallwork jailed for 15 months
A former Manchester United player who was found breaking up stolen car parts at a scrapyard in the city has been jailed for 15 months.
Ronnie Wallwork, 34, from Failsworth, Manchester, pleaded guilty to three counts of receiving stolen goods.
Police stumbled upon Wallwork while investigating unconnected armed robberies across Lancashire.
A judge at Preston Crown Court said he could not agree to the suspended prison term requested by Wallwork's defence.
'Organisation and sophistication'
Judge Simon Newell told the former England Under-20 international: "These were high-value items that were stolen.
"It seems to me they were taken in a professional and sophisticated way.
"It also seems clear to me that they were taken to go into the black market either to be sold on or broken down and sold on.
"You provided the facility for that to happen. There was an element of organisation and sophistication in what went on."
Detectives chanced on Wallwork at the 10 Arches Scrapyard in Manchester as they looked for a gang of armed criminals who had shot a security guard in Preston.
It emerged Wallwork had sold a Volkswagen Touran engine and parts from a BMW 318i on eBay, and he was observed driving a Mazda Furano into the scrapyard three days after it was stolen from a car dealer.
The three stolen vehicles he was linked to were worth more than £43,000 in total, Preston Crown Court heard.
Rachel Woods, defending, said her client "succumbed to temptation in a stage of his life when his finances had taken a dramatic turn for the worse."
She said that, until relatively recently, Wallwork had a "promising career" as a professional footballer but it was "tragically cut short" when he was the victim of a serious assault five years ago.
Ms Woods said her client, who nearly died in the attack, had struggled "to find a proper path to continue with his life" since his career ended.
Wallwork had lost a lot of money in two failed businesses before he set up the initially legitimate concern from the 10 Arches scrapyard.
Since admitting his crimes he had taken advantage of various services offered to him by the Professional Footballers' Association and had undergone counselling
Wallwork won a Premier League winners' medal in 2001, but the next year went to West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called the "Bosman of the year".
He was West Brom's player of the year in the 2004-05 Premier League season in which they escaped relegation in the last match.
Loan periods at Bradford City, Barnsley and Huddersfield Town followed before he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in 2008 where he made only seven appearances.