The football manager with three names, one rape conviction and many unanswered questions

On the Liverpool-to-Manchester railway line at one end of Warrington Rylands’ Gorsey Lane ground, a train whistles past every 10 minutes or so.

The other three sides of the pitch are flanked by a retirement home, a pavilion that leads on to a recreation field, and a row of terraced houses.

England’s north west boasts some of the biggest names in world football, but Rylands are not one of them. Yet it is here, in a town more renowned for its love of rugby league, that one of the season’s more curious, and troubling, stories has played out in the last fortnight: of a player-turned-manager with three public identities, a rape conviction and many unanswered questions.

If they achieve promotion to the sixth tier of English football through the Northern Premier League (NPL) play-offs, which start next week, Warrington Rylands will be one of smallest clubs in the National League North.

Promotion would be some achievement for a club that lost their manager Michael Clegg in February, just a fortnight after he signed a new contract.


Clegg departed for Macclesfield, part-owned by the former Premier League midfielder Robbie Savage and the biggest club in the division by some distance. Macclesfield — created after the town’s previous team was liquidated and kicked out of the Football League — draw an average crowd of 3,211. They are top of the NPL’s attendance table; Rylands, meanwhile, are down in 14th, with an average crowd of 518.

In an interview with the Warrington Guardian newspaper, Rylands chairman Mark Pye acknowledged Macclesfield were offering “the kind of money you can’t really turn down”.

In an effort to ensure some continuity, Pye temporarily placed the club’s most senior players — Sam Wilson and Dean Furman — in charge, just as he had last year.

In the 2022-23 season, Wilson and Furman impressively steered Rylands to a victory at title-chasing Hyde following Jody Banim’s resignation. But while Furman, a former South Africa international with 58 caps, returned to the team’s midfield under Clegg, Wilson struggled for game time.

At this point, however, Sam Wilson was not technically on Rylands’ books. Instead, he was known as Sam Egerton, a name the club had used since signing him in 2021. There had also been times earlier in his career when he had been referred to as Sam Egerton-Wilson. In this article, The Athletic will use the name he was known by at the time of specific events, as that is pertinent to his story.

When it was announced that he had joined Runcorn Linnets on loan just before Christmas 2023, his new club referred to him as Sam Egerton on social media, describing him as a defender with a “great football CV”.

Yet after returning to Rylands, and before parachuting back into a management role with Furman, he suddenly became Wilson, albeit without any formal explanation on the club’s website, on its social media channels or in local media outlets.


Wilson and Furman’s tenure was a success. Six wins in eight games left Rylands on course for the play-offs and when that passage was sealed on April 13, despite a defeat to Lancaster City, the club celebrated by naming Wilson as permanent manager. At their player-of-the-year awards ceremony, Wilson, dressed in a black T-shirt and a cream jacket, was photographed with his arm around Pye.

Sam Wilson (left) and chairman Mark Pye, pictured in the article – subsequently deleted – on Warrington Ryelands’ website announcing his appointment as manager (Warrington Rylands)

Rylands’ announcement on their Twitter (now X) account, however, soon took a turn. Replies to their post included links to a story from the Manchester Evening News in 2015, detailing how Wilson, then 23, had been convicted of rape and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life after attacking a woman in a Manchester flat.

The victim had met Wilson’s friend at a nightclub. After the friend and the woman had consensual sex, Wilson, who had not even spoken to the woman, entered the room and forced himself on her. She fled and immediately called the police.

Wilson was sentenced to five years in prison but was out by 2018, when he returned to football under the surname Egerton with Trafford FC — a non-League club four miles from Manchester United’s Old Trafford home. Three years later, he joined Rylands, following a spell with Matlock Town in Derbyshire.

His reign as the club’s permanent manager lasted just three days, with a departure “by mutual consent” announced on April 16 via a short statement that did not offer any reasons for the decision.

Rylands did not respond to an invitation from The Athletic to comment on 11 points relating to Wilson’s exit. Yet conversations with a multitude of sources either working in or connected to non-League football in the north west — all of whom wished to remain anonymous to protect their positions — revealed that Wilson’s history was an open secret within the game.

The case raises some difficult questions. There is no public record of a rapist from Manchester called Sam Egerton — did his name change obscure his past? How was Wilson’s criminal conviction not revealed by clubs’ due diligence before offering him contracts as a player or coach? And are background checks from the NPL and clubs robust enough to ensure sex offenders are not offered roles that could pose safeguarding concerns?

When Trafford’s long-serving chairman John Eadie was asked by The Athletic whether anyone at the club knew about Egerton’s past after he signed in 2018, the response was brusque and unenlightening: “No comment.”

It was also typical. Matlock Town, in addition to Rylands, also declined to engage with The Athletic’s questions, while Wilson himself said he would prefer not to comment at this time, saying he was “dealing with a number of contractual issues”. It means gaining definitive answers is difficult.

Ultimately, there was no legal boundary stopping Trafford, or any other club, from signing a player with a criminal record, including sex offences.

Yet the noise around this decision, and any wider moral debate relating to it, was surely reduced by the fact that when Egerton was convicted, his surname was Wilson. Two reports across the digital and print platforms of the Manchester Evening News (MEN), the only outlet that covered the story, did not even mention that he was a semi-professional footballer, although they did carry his picture.

No journalist from the MEN attended Manchester Crown Court when Wilson was sent down. Instead, the story was published based on information sent in a press release by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) on September 10, 2015.

The GMP told The Athletic that it does not typically mention someone’s background or occupation in its press releases unless it is relevant to the story, but that is not always the case. When Jonathan Diba-Musangu was jailed in 2021 for 28 years for raping and sexually assaulting seven females, including children, across six years, he was identified in the GMP’s press release as a “semi-pro footballer” who played for Mossley for a brief period before his arrest, even though this had nothing to do with his crimes.

The only indication of Wilson being a footballer online appeared on the GMP’s Facebook page after it was announced that he had been convicted — yet you would have to scroll through hundreds of comments underneath the photograph of him, taken when charges were made, to begin to connect the dots.

Among the former classmates from his old school and college registering their shock at the development were the words of a few supporters of Nantwich Town and Stalybridge Celtic, two of Wilson’s former clubs. Also included was a staunch defence from Martin Pilkington, a team-mate at Ashton United — the club he was playing for when he was convicted.

Wilson pleaded not guilty and, following his trial, the GMP press release included a quote from a detective who said: “Wilson walked into that room and saw his friend having consensual sex with the woman. Without her consent, he then took advantage of the situation and raped her.”

It had taken longer than two years to reach this verdict but when the GMP was asked by The Athletic to provide information on when Wilson was charged in order to establish which club he was representing at the time, it claimed it was not a detail it could find on their system.

All of this is likely to have helped Wilson return to football as Sam Egerton. His new manager at Trafford was Tom Baker, a former non-League midfielder from Manchester, who was just starting in the role when the player was convicted three years earlier.

Tom Baker, former manager of Trafford FC (image from Trafford FC)

Upon Baker’s appointment in May 2015, a statement from Trafford read: “The club directors were tremendously impressed with his passion, enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of the non-League scene.”

Egerton’s career at Trafford had barely started, however, when he suffered a serious injury in a pre-season match against Altrincham. There is no record of Egerton’s past on the Trafford Messenger website, but it does include a match report from July 26, 2018, when Egerton suffered an injury that, according to the NPL’s official website, meant he did not play a league game during the 2018-19 season.

One source has told The Athletic that the injury, despite its severity, was a stroke of luck for Egerton because it meant he could gradually reintegrate into a club without the sort of visibility that might invite difficult questions.

Upon his return to the side nearly a year later, he had earned enough respect by his actions off the pitch to be selected Trafford’s captain.

After the announcement, Baker was quoted on the NPL’s website as saying: “Sam is a natural born leader… he echoes me as a manager and is fully on board with the direction of the group. He is a really mentally strong character who will lead by example on and off the field.”

Egerton, meanwhile, said he was “extremely proud” and “grateful for the trust the gaffer has put in me in offering me this role”.

Unpicking the names by which Wilson was known at his various clubs is far from straightforward, not least because an overhaul of the NPL’s registration system last summer means it is unclear under which names he was officially registered.

The Northern Premier League declined to comment when approached by The Athletic, but did highlight that a lack of manpower made forensic record-keeping challenging.

However, research undertaken by The Athletic has established this as a rough timeline.

  • April 2012: He was referred to on the official website of his first club, Lancaster City, as Sam Egerton-Wilson.
  • He was known as Sam Egerton at his two subsequent clubs: Stalybridge and New Mills, a village team south of Manchester. On May 6, 2013, 10 days before he committed rape, he appeared in New Mills’ NPL Division One North play-off semi-final defeat to Trafford as Sam Egerton.
  • August 2013: He signed for Nantwich, where he was again called by his hyphenated name.
  • October 2013: FC United of Manchester’s website referred to him as Sam Wilson in their reporting of a game against Nantwich.
  • November 2014: The NPL’s website referred to Samuel Wilson moving from Nantwich Town to Ashton United. When he appeared on the league’s official team sheet for his Ashton debut, however, he did so under the name Sam Egerton-Wilson. He was also referred to by this name on the NPL’s website in a story titled “Bloodied defender will quickly bounce back” after he suffered an injury that required treatment from a plastic surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital in south Manchester.
  • August 2015: After the club missed out on promotion in the play-offs, he started the following season at Ashton, appearing in the club’s red-and-white kit during a squad photoshoot. His last game for Ashton was under the surname of Wilson during an August Bank Holiday Monday defeat to Colwyn Bay. Ten days later, he was convicted of rape. Though his imprisonment meant he was no longer available to play for Ashton, there was no recognition of this development on the club’s old website, which remains active.
  • August 2018: A list of transfers published by the NPL on their website included Samuel Egerton moving from Ashton United to Trafford.

After he was released, Wilson used only one name — Sam Egerton, one that did not link him directly to any crime.

When he signed for Matlock as Egerton in the summer of 2020, the club was managed by Paul Phillips — his boss at Ashton United in 2015 when he was convicted.

In an interview with the club’s website, Egerton described himself as an “old-school defender” and an “honest player” after questions from an interviewer who references Ashton and Trafford as his two previous clubs without mentioning the three-year gap in between.

“I’ve had Sam with me before, he’s a born winner,” Phillips told the Derbyshire Times upon the player’s arrival. “He demands standards from everyone around him, basically he does what it says on the tin…”

When Matlock were asked by The Athletic whether anyone at the club knew about Egerton’s past, chairman Jason Beaumont said he could not answer questions as he was only appointed after the player’s departure to Warrington Rylands in 2021.

Though Rylands were in the league below Matlock, Phillips told local press in Derbyshire that Egerton had received a “lucrative” two-year contract that he could not compete with financially.

Rylands had won the FA Vase at Wembley only a few months earlier and experienced a swift rise through the leagues — a feat that was partly due to the involvement of the famous football agent Paul Stretford, whose family connection with the club stretched back to his grandfather, who was a player in the years after the First World War.

Warrington Rylands celebrate winning the FA Vase at Wembley in 2021 (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

In the summer of 2022, the Warrington Guardian reported that Stretford had stepped back from Rylands “some time ago”. By then, Egerton had helped the team to another title in a season where manager Dave McNabb — who has since managed Macclesfield, Bootle and is now at a reformed Bury FC — praised his “leadership” and defensive qualities that were “through the roof.”

McNabb’s departure in the autumn of 2022 was followed by Banim’s resignation at the start of the following year. Egerton (as he was still being called) was placed in charge with Furman but that arrangement was brief because of the appointment of Clegg, who was spared jail time in 2014 after being convicted for a health insurance scam that defrauded Bupa, the company he worked for.



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It was at this point — when Egerton was being given a position of responsibility as opposed to simply being a player — that questions should have been asked about his past to gauge his suitability for the role.

According to the English Football Association (FA), “when clubs or leagues recruit new members, all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children”.

“This means a DBS (disclosure and barring service) check is required for anyone aged 16 years or over who undertakes any potentially unsupervised roles working directly with children and young people under the age of 18.”

Given that the responsibilities of a football manager potentially involve supervising players in this age range, Rylands would have been expected to carry out this check. The club did not reveal whether such checks were carried out when asked by The Athletic, or which names they searched for — ie, Sam Wilson or Sam Egerton.

The first post-2018 reference to Sam Wilson in a football context came during his loan spell at Runcorn Linnets, from a post-match interview with club media, even though he had been announced as a signing on social media and the club’s website as Sam Egerton three days earlier.

After Clegg left Rylands for Macclesfield two months ago, Pye initially told the Warrington Guardian that Furman would be in charge.

“We’re obviously not going to get a manager in by Saturday, so ‘Deano’ (Furman) will take that game then we’ll see where we are next week.”

Yet when Furman appeared on the I Had Trials Once podcast, released on March 26, he clarified the managerial arrangements. “It’s myself and Sam Egerton,” he said. “As soon as ‘Cleggy’ left, we knew they were coming to us… from the club, they just thought, ‘Let’s keep it rolling, keep it internal’. Give it to me and big ‘Edgy’, who is class: he knows the level. He knows everyone: he knows the players, managers…”

Egerton’s subsequent appointment was followed by a social media post from the man himself, where he said he had been “completely overwhelmed by all the messages I have received. Your kindness and support mean a lot. Enormously grateful for this opportunity, I will give it my best”.

Agent Paul Stretford (right) was instrumental in Warrington Rylands’ rise (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Though Sam Wilson’s name remains on Rylands’ website, where he is listed as a player, the article announcing him as manager can no longer be found. Nearly all traces of the decision to hire him have also been removed from social media, while the news page on the NPL website has also been taken down. The league said this was to avoid having news articles announcing Wilson’s hiring and firing next to each other on its website.

As of April 24, only one post linked to Wilson’s appointment remained — a photograph of him leaving the pitch, clapping the fans, after the defeat to Lancaster in the hours before his unveiling.

Though the club has not spoken publicly about the circumstances that led to his sudden departure, league regulations are governed by the FA, whose rules state that any contract signed can be terminated if a person brings either the club or the competition into disrepute.

Had he remained Egerton, and not returned to Wilson — the name that he was convicted under nearly nine years ago — perhaps he may still be managing Rylands.

What prompted him to change it remains unclear. It is just one of many unanswered questions his case has raised.

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