Wallwork glad to back in action

AFTER an 11-month gap, Ronnie Wallwork is delighted to be back playing first-team football again, and Andy Ritchie is more than happy to accommodate him.

AFTER an 11-month gap, Ronnie Wallwork is delighted to be back playing first-team football again, and Andy Ritchie is more than happy to accommodate him.

There’s a big mutual respect between the on-loan West Brom player and Town’s manager, and not just because they’re both members of the Manchester United old boys’ club.

They’ve also got Barnsley in common – almost.

Ritchie set the wheels in motion to bring the Mancunian midfielder to Oakwell last November, only to be sacked as Reds boss before the former England Under 20 cap made his first appearance.

It turned out to be an eventful spell for the 30-year-old, who made his Town debut in last Saturday’s impressive 2-0 Galpharm win over Luton Town and then helped his new side draw 1-1 at home to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.

While Wallwork was hoping to be fit for today’s League I visit to Walsall after taking a knock to the ankle against Forest, it was injuries of a very different kind which denied him a third outing for Barnsley after he had helped them to home wins over Ipswich and Southend.

Wallwork suffered stab wounds to the hand, stomach and back in an alleged attack in a Manchester bar. He was rushed to hospital and spent 10 days there.

Wallwork was back playing for West Brom Reserves by February, but hadn’t featured in a senior until seven days ago.

And while the court case is due to take place in December, Wallwork is keen to focus on football for the time being.

“I feel fine physically, other than the legs being a little bit heavy and the ankle a bit tender, and it’s been great to get back to playing first-team football in front of decent crowds,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of Reserve matches for West Brom, but league football is completely different, and I’ve really enjoyed the two games so far.

“I’ve still got to the end of this season on my West Brom contract, but for whatever reason, things have gone a bit stale for me under the current manager (Tony Mowbray).

“My face doesn’t seem to fit down there, so it was great to hear that Andy Ritchie wanted to bring me here and I’m grateful to him for giving me this chance.”

Wallwork, who was born at Newton Heath (Manchester United’s original name) and came through the youth system at the Old Trafford club, can play in defence, but is a primarily holding midfielder.

With Town skipper Jon Worthington still working his way back to fitness following groin problems, that’s the position in which Ritchie wanted Wallwork to play.

“The gaffer told me he wanted me to try and get the lads passing the ball, to talk to them during games and to help the side keep its shape,” explained Wallwork.

“He said there are a lot of good young players at Huddersfield, but the side needs a bit of experience, which hopefully I can provide.”

Wallwork played the full 90 minutes against Luton (after just one Town training session), and would have done the same against Forest had the sore ankle not forced him off after 79.

“I was a bit surprised not to be taken off against Luton, but with us winning, I was enjoying myself, and while I was cramping up a bit towards the end, I think the buzz of being involved again got me through.” he explained.

“It was a good solid victory, and it’s a shame we couldn’t follow up with another against Forest, because I thought we had the bulk of the game.

“But we’ve produced two good performances against sides who are highly rated in this division, and from what I’ve seen, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up there challenging.”

While Wallwork, who was part of the West Brom squad who took the club up from the Championship in 2003-04 (when he also spent a spell on loan at Bradford), would love to be involved in another promotion campaign, he’s best known to most fans for his role in helping Albion avoid relegation from the Premiership in 2005.

Seemingly hopelessly adrift at Christmas, Bryan Robson’s side battled back in the New Year and eventually retained their top-flight status with a final-day win over Portsmouth.

Wallwork was named Player of the Season.

Tuesday’s Forest clash was Wallwork’s 140th league appearance and 165th in all competitions in a career which began with a Manchester United debut in the 7-0 home Premiership destruction of Barnsley 10 years ago on October 25.

However he struggled to break into the first team, and was sent to Carlisle, Stockport and then Royal Antwerp on loan.

His spell in Belgium was marred by controversy when he was banned from football for life after he allegedly attacked a referee.

That punishment was reduced on appeal to just a one-year sanction which related only to Belgium.

In July 2002, and with 28 United appearances to his credit, Wallwork was allowed to join West Brom on a free transfer.

 

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