Former Manchester United player Ronnie Wallwork has escaped prison for a ‘brutal attack’ on an acquaintance during a bar room row over his white trainers.
Wallwork, 43, and his pal David Garner, 44. left their victim in hospital with serious facial injuries including a fractured right eye socket after launching their sickening attack at The Jam Works, a bar in Droylsden.
Garner headbutted the man to the ground and then Wallwork threw a series of punches during 25 seconds of violence that was captured on the bar’s CCTV.
Their victim had been socialising with his brother-in-law and began chatting with Wallwork, who he had known for five years, in the bar on Market Street on December 22, 2019, a court heard.
Prosecutor Brendan O’Leary told Minshull Street Crown Court that during the evening there was ‘some conversation’ about the white trainers Wallwork was wearing.
CCTV played to the court showed shaven-headed Wallwork, who was wearing a black jumper featuring large white print, approaching the victim before pointing to his trainers, prompting ‘an exchange of words’ between the pair.
The victim was then seen to point to Wallwork’s trainers before the retired midfielder then moved to another table in the bar.
The footage then showed Wallwork and his co-defendant speaking to each other and a third man before Wallwork was seen to point towards his victim.
The footage indicated Wallwork must have said something because it prompted the victim to raise his hands and clap in the direction of the former United player, according to the prosecutor.
The victim was seen to point again at Wallwork’s trainers, prompting Wallwork to remove his right trainer and hold it up towards the man.
Garner is then seen to lean down and reach out to touch the victim’s trainers.
The court heard Wallwork then ‘squares up’ to his victim who then speaks to Garner who ‘without warning’ headbutts him, sending him staggering backwards.
The man then saw both defendants come towards him, Garner with his right fist raised and Wallwork managing to slip the grasp of a man trying to hold him back.
Wallwork punched the man before taking a few more swings and then landing three more punches, sending his victim crashing over a table.
Security moved in to remove Wallwork who appeared set on continuing the assault, said the prosecutor.
Garner was seen attacking another, unidentified man, kicking him and punching him before security also removed him from the bar.
The victim was taken to A&E at Tameside General Hospital where he was treated for facial injuries – a CT scan showed a fractured right eye socket, although he did not require surgery.
In a victim personal statement read out in court, the man said the incident had cost him £4,000 in lost wages while he said the attack had also affected him ’emotionally’.
“It’s left me distressed. I constantly think about it. It leaves me feeling depressed,” he said.
He went on that nothing like this had ever happened to him before and he described the cause of the attack as ‘something not even trivial’.
The attack had left him ‘constantly looking over my shoulder worried about being assaulted again’, adding that he still suffers aches and blurred vision.
Wallwork was arrested five months later and told officers the man had been ‘mocking’ his clothes and that he had ‘felt threatened’, the court was told.
When Garner was arrested, he told officers his victim had threatened to stab him and Wallwork.
The court heard Wallwork had one caution for battery and two convictions covering four offences on his record. He served time in 2011 for receiving stolen goods.
Garner had been cautioned for battery in 2009 but had no previous convictions on his record.
Alex Longhorn, defending both men, referred to an incident in 2006 when Wallwork, then age 29 and playing for West Bromwich Albion, was stabbed in a Manchester city centre nightclub.
The attack had had a ‘catastrophic’ effect on Wallwork’s football career and private life, the court was told.
Mr Langhorn said Wallwork was ‘not someone who’s chosen a celebrity lifestyle’ but he had been left ‘massively in debt’ and ‘no real future’ until he got a job as a ‘key worker’ delivering goods during the pandemic.
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“He built something and all of that’s gone now. He’s back where he was nine months ago,” said Mr Langhorn, who went on that his client had made ‘one stupid mistake which he bitterly regrets’.
Wallwork, he said, ‘wished he had walked away’ from the incident, and now wanted to be a ‘proper role model’ for his family.
The attack had been ‘something more akin to a schoolyard incident’, said Mr Langhorne.
Speaking about Mr Garner, Mr Langhorn said his client was ‘deeply remorseful for what he had done that night’.
Garner had struggled with alcohol but had been trying to build a life for himself and his children.
He was about to move out of his parents’ home and worked for United Utilities metering and repairing pipes, the court was told.
The defendant accepted his behaviour had been ‘shameful’.
Judge Tina Landale described the attack the two men had launched as ‘brutal’, saying it had had a ‘long lasting impact’ on their victim.
The judge said only a custodial sentence was justified but she went on that she was able to suspend the sentence, noting the attack had not been premeditated and that the pair had no ‘relevant’ previous convictions.
She said both defendants had been ‘hard-working men’ and ‘remorseful’ and that Garner in particular ‘had expressed very deep remorse’.
Wallwork was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 20 days of rehabilitation activity and 200 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay his victim £500 compensation.
Garner was also handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 40 days of rehabilitation activity and pay his victim £1,000 compensation. He was also told to complete a nine-month alcohol treatment program.
Wallwork, of Densmore Street in Failsworth, and Garner, of Sparth Road in Newton Heath, had both pleaded guilty to GBH.
The midfielder, 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 followed before he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in 2008 where he made just seven appearances.