Another crisp October morning welcomes
another extraordinary day, and I'm not talking about about the Ready
Salted variety either, more Roast Lamb & Mint. What makes this
day more incredible than most is the near arrival of my unborn baby.
Those early labour signs proved insignificant. Even my wife's
palpitations could not convince the unborn child to have a birthday,
incidentally, my wife was having heart-stopping moments because
Wrighty was phoning me, and she has seen clips of his bum!
So bare arse aside, it was my turn to
speak to the most passionate football player you could ever wish to
So what started off as a pretty
innocuous day, ended with a chirpy smile, which could probably only be
matched by one of Ian Wright's goalscoring smiles. To him, I was
just another reporter and journalist, to me, he is my wife's idol, my
brother's saviour and my realisation of a dream to actually acquaint
myself with someone who donned the sacred England shirt. Not
just someone, but the Arsenal goal machine himself, Mr Ian Wright.
Of course, the interview stems from his
promotional work over his new DVD, released next month,
elsewhere on this website, which is presented by Wrighty himself, or
to be more accurate, Wrighty gives us his anecdotes between clips
which he alone can deliver, simply, but very entertainingly. What we do
not see on the DVD is any embarrassing clips from this prolific
counts himself lucky in that way. Despite the absolute howlers
from the likes of Kanu and Ronnie Rosenthal, where it simply would
have been easier to score, Wrighty knows that given every
opportunity, he would have put them away in the back of the net.
Always willing to entertain, never willing to miss.
We all know, and myself now, more than ever,
that Ian Wright's passion is the love of football, yet more and more
we see him on the television doing something completely different.
How far off the pitch can you be with the National Lottery, or
Friends Like This, even the Guinness World Records show,
his own chat show.... the list can continue, but you should be getting
my point, the general idea that Wrighty has had his hand in more
than one packet of crisps, several in fact. What's more,
it was all intentional. If Ian had gone straight into punditry
like so many other retired players, wouldn't we all recognise him as
Ian Wright, football pundit. Whereas now, we can rightly call
him Ian Wright, television presenter - and he is not out of his depth
in doing so. Charisma follows him now like controversy often
used to. Ian's love of football shines through in his presenting
because he acknowledges that without football, there simply would be
no television career. In those infamous Chicken Tonight
adverts... well, those ads simply informed the rest of the nation of
how infectious Wrighty's personality is. So why regret them?
Ian Edward Wright, as any biography
will tell you, was born on 3 November 1963, in Woolwich, London.
More than likely, those same biographies will tell you that he started
his football career belatedly, 1985 to be precise. Millwall, the
club Ian has supported since childhood, ignored his talents, then
Brighton & Hove Albion also turned him down in 1983. So, it was
to be Crystal Palace that put Wright on the Football League map.
It was then his England call-up and transfer to the Arsenal in 1992
that put Wright firmly on the Football atlas. Between 1985 and
now, the game has grown much quicker, and Ian will put that down to
the influx of foreign players, the decent ones of course, he quoted
Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Bergkamp and obviously Thierry Henry.
There are more tackles, more off-the-ball running, the work-rate has
increased tenfold. In Wright's own words - "technically better
at a quality tempo". Having said that, that same influx of
foreign footballers has provided us with an era of innocuous fouling
and the simulation that we much prefer to call diving.
As the pace quickened, so too did Ian
Wright's passion, this in spite of his body slowing down. After
leaving Arsenal in 1998, he joined West Ham United for a nonchalant
nine months. A move north of the border to Celtic proved
different, but never regrettable, although it could have been, had he
not been offered the chance of a further transfer. His choice to
retire in 2000 could have seen his career descend into obscurity,
especially when the chance to move to Millwall, Ian's first love team,
was quashed due to unnecessary interference from the chairman, Theo
Paphitis. As it happens, Millwall's loss became Burnley's gain.
Stan Ternant, the Burnley manager was Wright's coach in his Palace
day's. The link-up was perfect for Ternant, for Wright, and
especially for the success-starved Claret fan's. The five months
spent in Burnley were some of Wright's most impressive. He loved
the footballing tradition the town provided, almost every shirt worn
by a football fan was that of a Burnley claret. No United
fan's, and definitely no Rover's supporters. A spectacular goal
against Notts County cemented Ian Wright into the hearts of many
Burnley fans, it was probably also the goal that sent Burnley into the
First Division. Wrighty's career at the very least, ended on a
What about that England career?
33 appearances, 17 of them in the starting line-up, seems somehow to
be a few too many short of the predatory talents Wright obviously
showed, and yet everyone of them was "a major thing". His
nine goals, a couple of them crucial, also seem to stand out for all
the wrong reasons - 89 Palace goals, 185 Gooner goals, and only nine
in a three lions shirt, and yet his England career lasted more than
most, ten years in fact. Graham Taylor would not allow him to
cement any partnerships, despite giving him his debut - let's face it,
a Lineker-Wright partnership would have been phenomenal, and even a
Shearer-Wright partnership could have been something bordering on
spectacular. The two players (Wright & Lineker, or Wright &
Shearer) could have benefited from each other in much the same way
Rooney and Michael Owen do... or used to, at least. Yet Taylor
did not allow it, these were the years when nothing short of an
explosion could stop Wrighty. If Ian had been picked just a few
more times in the starting line-up, how many more times would he have
scored a hat-trick? A thought to ponder, especially as he scored
four goals in Taylor's final match as England
manager, against San Marino. Wrighty was always a master of
irony. But that was Graham Taylor, a man who couldn't see the
forest for the trees - and just as wooden.
Terry Venables appeared to have missed
Wright, starting only one game - but along came the saviour, Glenn
Hoddle, he resurrected Wright's England career, despite being 33.
Hoddle gave him free reign, a free role, a chance to play the game he
loved, enjoyed and respected so much. It was a chance to shine,
and shine he did. Wright played an integral part in the Le
Tournoi in the summer of 1997. England's only triumph of late.
It was a second coming that was recognised by many of his followers,
Hoddle most of all. Wright's performance against Italy in Rome
in the October of that year was nothing short of divine. That
was the night Wright redeemed England and Hoddle. It was with
great sadness that a hamstring injury prevented him from travelling to
France in the 1998 World Cup, on the back of an electrifying season.
Wright's England career faded along with Hoddle's. Should the
media not have thrown Hoddle's comments into pathetic proportions,
Wright's England tally may have been just those one or two more... but
So what do we have now? Ian has a
career carved out in passion, and sprinkled with a touch of lunacy,
that just makes everyone love him. He got his partnership with
Lineker and Shearer finally, albeit, on BBC's Match of the Day,
telling us where England are going wrong with his 'controversial'
diving comments. His 'we should never have appointed Sven'
attitude. Long may that continue on the BBC.
Ian is never one to rest on his
laurels, his latest adventure is take unfit teenagers, and make them
at least half as passionate as he is about sport. His latest
series was deemed a success, and more are hopefully to follow.
We can at least follow the Wright
legacy in the shape of Shaun Wright-Phillips, presently at Chelsea,
and seen in current England squads. There is also Bradley
Wright-Phillips, presently following in father's footsteps as a
goalscorer at Southampton. Then we have Brett Wright, currently
trying to become involved and forge a career in football. Each
one having endured similar hardships as their father.
I spent twenty-five minutes with Ian
Wright, and it revealed a lifetime of passion, endurance and
patriotism. It revealed his love for the north-east of
England...their fans, their football. It revealed his love of
kid's in the form of giving them a decent life, a fit life. It
also revealed that to pull on an England shirt was 'an unbelievable
In conclusion, it was an unbelievable
honour to chat with a living legend. What more can I say...?
Apart from my wife is devastated....
is based on an actual conversation between Ian Wright and Chris Goodwin.