Born: Manchester, 10th September 1977
Height: 5ft. 10ins., Weight: 12st. 2lbs.
Role: Central defender or left full-back
Career: Briscoe Lane Primary School (Newton Heath)/ Manchester Boys/ Failsworth High School/ Oldham Boys/ Idsall School (Shropshire)/ England Boys/ UNITED: Ass. Schoolboy October 1991 Trainee July 1994 Pro. March 1995 to June 2002/ Carlisle United (L) December 1997 to February 1998/ Stockport County (L) March to May 1998/ Royal Antwerp (Bel) (L) January to May 1999/ West Bromwich Albion July 2002 to January 2008/ Bradford City (L) January and February 2004/ Bradford City (L) February and March 2004/ Barnsley (L) November and December 2006/ Huddersfield Town (L) September 2007 to January 2008/ Sheffield Wednesday January to June 2008
Ronnie Wallwork joined United’s Centre of Excellence as a young boy after previously playing for his junior school. Initially selected for Manchester Boys when just twelve years-old, at the age of thirteen he took up with a local Sunday side called Newton Heath Juniors prior to progressing into the club’s adult team around a year later. At that time he also represented Oldham Boys at under-15 level, his family having moved to Failsworth in the town’s catchment area, and was soon offered a chance to attend the F.A. School of Excellence at Lilleshall in Shropshire.
He had firmly committed himself to the Reds some time earlier and as a consequence showed no interest in attending trials with any other clubs. Wallwork felt privileged to be selected for England Boys at the Faroe Islands-staged Nordic Cup competition in August 1993 and while there he took part in games against Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
During the 1993/94 campaign he participated in a further five games for England in their European (under-16) Championship Qualifiers. Taking to the field in home and away fixtures against Italy and Holland, as well as an engagement with the Republic of Ireland at Lilleshall, in April he was chosen for the tournament finals in Eire and gained selection for three of England’s four group games versus the Ukraine, Portugal and the host nation.
He featured for United in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup in July 1994 and on the 13th of the following month found himself utilised in the ‘B’ team’s 4-1 win at Liverpool. Wallwork continued at that grade for most of the season and at the end of November he was selected in central defence for a one-sided Youth Cup victory over Wrexham at Old Trafford. Retaining his place for the home draw with Charlton in December, he was overlooked for the replay but was put on the bench when United defeated Arsenal to progress into the Fifth Round.
The Mancunian was then drafted back into the side and he made a major contribution towards steering the Reds into the semi-final by scoring one of the goals in a scintillating 3-2 win at Villa Park. He remained in the team for the rest of the competition, with United accounting for Wimbledon at the last four stage and then going on to defeat a gallant Tottenham team in the final. As the penalty shoot-out unfolded in the concluding leg against Spurs, his conversion of the Reds’ second spot kick went a long way towards ensuring the trophy was won 4-3 on penalties.
He continued to make progress and pick up silverware while the 1995/96 term unfolded. In early September, after completing only two ‘A’ team games, there was an early promotion in store when he was chosen for the Reserves against Liverpool at Anfield. A few more opportunities presented themselves during the campaign, but with Pat McGibbon, Chris Casper, David May and Colin Murdock all vying for places, competition was fierce.
Predominantly used in the ‘A’ team, and honoured with the captaincy throughout a Youth Cup run which was ended by Liverpool in the quarter-final, he found greater fortune in the Lancashire Youth Cup when skippering the Reds to a 3-2 victory at Blackburn on the last day of April. As the season unfolded he was selected for England’s under-18 team on five occasions and by its conclusion United ‘A’ had captured the Lancashire League Division One title.
The 1996/97 term saw him become established in a second string that went on to secure a Pontin’s Reserve League championship. He also contributed to the ‘A’ team’s cause as they took their title for the second successive year while simultaneously demonstrating his versatility by contributing as much in defence as in midfield. With the campaign drawing to a close he was selected as a substitute for Brian McClair’s testimonial match against Celtic and eventually got a run out when replacing Roy Keane.
Wallwork travelled to Malaysia with the England under-20 squad for the World Youth Championships in June 1997. Figuring in all three qualifying games against the Ivory Coast, the UAE and Mexico as England finished at the top of their group to reach the last sixteen, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Argentina saw them knocked out of the competition.
The following season provided him with a steep learning curve. Starting it with the Reserves, in the October his name appeared as a substitute for a Premier League game in which United acted as hosts to Barnsley. On the 64-minute mark, with the Reds comfortably up by six goals to nil, he replaced Gary Pallister to make his senior league bow before another goal concluded the score at 7-0.
In a bid to give him some additional first-team minutes, Alex Ferguson arranged a three-month loan spell at Carlisle which began in December. Back at base camp by the following February with ten league games behind him, after just one further appearance for the Reserves he linked up on loan with Stockport.
Those periods spent at Carlisle and Stockport provided him with much-needed experience and the process was repeated during the 1998/99 term. Tasked with assisting the Reserves over the opening half of the campaign before joining Antwerp in January, his efforts in trying to help them reach the Belgian First Division were soon thrown into turmoil when he and fellow Red Danny Higginbotham decided that the referee’s decisions warranted some debate at the conclusion of one particular game.
An incident occurred which culminated with Wallwork manhandling the official, an act that resulted in him being banned from Belgian football for life. The sanction should have been ratified worldwide and looked set to end a promising career until United’s lawyers uncovered a loophole which saved his fate. They discovered that because he was a registered British player, the defender came under the jurisdiction of Lancaster Gate and not the Belgian football authorities. The outcome was that his punishment could only be meted out by the English Football Association and so he received a suspension rather than a life ban.
In January 2000, just five months after thinking that his prospects were dead and buried, a remarkable recovery was completed at the World Club Championships in Brazil when he was included in a United side that took on South Melbourne. Even so, and despite being a consistent performer for the Reserves, over the next two and a half years he skirted around the fringe of Alex Ferguson’s first-team squad while never really threatening to carve out a permanent place in the side.
At the end of the 2000/01 season, a Premier League winner’s medal came into his possession by virtue of appearing in twelve games, eight of which were as a substitute. He only managed three games over the course of the next term and it was then that the stark realisation set in that a move was required in order to find first-team football. With his contract up and a number of clubs making approaches, including Portsmouth, West Brom, Birmingham, Dundee United and Bradford, his last game for United was at Altrincham’s Moss Lane ground in the Reserves’ 2-1 home defeat by Leeds in May 2002.
Following some deliberation he decided to join newly-promoted West Brom, whose opening fixture was against United at Old Trafford. After an encouraging initial period in which he established himself in a West Brom side doomed to relegation, he then found it difficult to retain a starting place. In search of regular football, and despite Albion heading for promotion again, he spent two loan spells at Bradford City in the early part of 2004. When Bryan Robson took over as the Baggies’ boss in November 2004, Wallwork found himself back in contention and he repaid his new manager by finishing the campaign as Albion’s ‘Player of the Year’.
He was again a regular for West Brom in the 2005/06 season, but was in and out of the team under Tony Mowbray. Loaned out once more, this time to Barnsley, his spell in Yorkshire was curtailed when he was sensationally stabbed in a nightclub incident in Manchester.
The 2007/08 term proved to be his swan song as a footballer. Still unable to force his way into the Albion’s senior side, he joined Huddersfield for a few months as a prelude to transferring to Sheffield Wednesday in the January. He failed to enhance his reputation at Hillsborough by adding only seven appearances prior to being released in the summer and then couldn’t impress while on trial at Carlisle.
Ronnie Wallwork ran his clothes business in Manchester over the next couple of years or so before being charged with concealing criminal property in January 2011. He pleaded guilty to three counts of handling stolen goods in July 2011 and was given a fifteen-month custodial sentence in the December of that year.