Former Carlisle United loan man Sonny Hilton has made a move in non-league - after a positive reference from Paul Simpson.

Hilton, who was with the Blues in the 2022/23 campaign, has joined National League North club Southport ahead of the 2024/25 campaign.

Hilton had previously been with Northern Premier League Division One West outfit Bootle.

He now moves two steps up the non-league ladder to play under former Morecambe and Rochdale boss Jim Bentley at Haig Avenue, while his Sandgrounders team-mates will include the ex-Blues defender Nathaniel Knight-Percival.

Bentley said he had spoken to United boss Simpson before making the move for the 23-year-old.

"He [Hilton] had a fantastic upbringing and he's got great experience of under-21 set-ups, the England set-up," Bentley said in a club interview.

"I know Paul Simpson, the Carlisle manager, very well - he spoke highly of him. He was his England [youth] manager as well.

"I know other lads who've played with him who have given him good character references.

"He can play anywhere across the front line, in midfield, No10...he's a creative player and one I'm sure the fans will like watching.

"He's just lost his way a bit, he had a bad ankle injury which kept him out for a bit. He came out of Fulham and decided to move back home, he's got himself right, got himself back playing.

"There's no doubting his ability and we're happy to give him that chance. He's eager and willing to give it his all to try and get back to the highest level he possibly can."

Hilton himself said: "I think I've got a lot of experience behind me which I can bring to the team.

"I really loved it [at Bootle], I enjoyed being back home, it was such a nice club to play for.

"I can't wait to get going."

The former Fulham man joined United on loan at the start of the 2022/23 campaign.

He arrived with high hopes but Hilton struggled to make a lasting impact on the United side in a spell which was also affected by injury.

He made just ten appearances before returning to his parent club, who released Hilton at the end of the campaign, the midfielder then returning to his native Merseyside to sign for Bootle.