AN ex-Manchester United and Huddersfield Town player has been jailed for 15 months for selling on parts from stolen high-performance cars.
Police stumbled upon the illegal vehicle-breaking operation of Ronnie Wallwork, 34, while investigating a string of unconnected armed robberies across Lancashire.
Wallwork, from Failsworth, Manchester, was working out of a rented scrapyard unit in Newton Heath when he was arrested last November.
It emerged he had sold a Volkswagen Touran engine and parts from a BMW 318i on eBay, while 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.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of handling stolen goods at an earlier hearing.
Sentencing him, Judge Simon Newell said he could not agree with the defence barrister’s request to impose a suspended jail term.
He said: “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.”
Wearing a grey suit, Wallwork stared ahead blankly before he was led to the cells from the dock.
Wallwork, who represented England at under 20 level, joined United as a trainee in 1993 but struggled to command a first team place and was loaned to a number of clubs before he joined West Bromwich Albion in 2002.
Loan periods at Bradford City, Barnsley and Huddersfield Town followed before he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in 2008 where he made just seven appearances.
Midfielder Wallwork joined Town on loan in September 2007 from West Brom. He made 18 appearances for Andy Ritchie’s side before moving on to Sheffield Wednesday, scoring three goals.
Wallwork was stabbed several times in an incident at a bar in Manchester in 2006.
The player, who was then on loan at Barnsley, was rushed to hospital with stab wounds to his hand, stomach and back.