Former Ireland B international Lewis Emanuel has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in a post office armed robbery in May.
The Bradford-born defender was tipped for a long international career by Steve Staunton in 2006 after playing the full 90 minutes against Scotland B at Dalymount Park.
Emanuel, a regular at the time in the Championship for Luton Town, had spoken of his pride at declaring for Ireland through his late grandfather George Mitchell from Tullamore, Co Offaly.
Neither Staunton nor Emanuel lasted much longer at international level, however, as that proved to be the first and last time the player wore the green jersey.
Luton’s slide into administration, coupled with his injury problems, saw Emanuel slip out of football during his late twenties into depression and sinister circles.
Earlier this year, the ex-professional footballer — now 30 — plotted with three other men to carry out the raid at a Huddersfield Post Office that netted them £16,000.
During the ordeal, a three-year-old girl was ordered to lie on the floor with her mother and grandmother while waiting four minutes for the timelock on the safe to be opened.
Following his arrest and charge, Emanuel claimed he was only a getaway driver of a second vehicle.
His defence barrister Andrew Walker told the court during last week’s hearing: “Mr Emanuel was once a man who had the world at his feet, quite literally. He played professional football appearing at Wembley.
“However, he did not play for the likes of Manchester United, but for teams at the lower rungs of the league including Luton and Bradford City. He suffered an injury to his foot that, ironically, did not occur on the football pitch, but more simply at home.
“The compensation payable to him was not like that given to the players at the top of the ladder. He found himself at the bottom of the pile and depressed. He is easily led and missing in the wrong circle, which lead to this offence. If he could take it back he would.”
The father-of-three, however, was given the same custodial prison term as his co-accused Craig Ward, who had 19 previous convictions.
“I accept in your case Emanuel that, but for your injury and the end of your football career, you would not be here,” Judge Simon Jack said in passing down the punishment.
Emanuel isn’t the only Irish player to be imprisoned during 2013. Former U21 skipper Michel Timlin, once of Fulham, spent five weeks behind bars during May and June after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice.
The Southend United midfielder, who had supplied false personal details to police in order to avoid a speeding offence, is back playing for his club this season.
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