What do we remember of Ian Wright?
Ian Edward Wright, MBE was born 3 November 1963 in Woolwich – a propitious start for an Arsenal player.
He started out with Greenwich Borough and then having been spotted was invited to have a trial at Crystal Palace who signed him in August 1985, when he was 21 – a late start in professionalism for a player.
Two teams dominated his playing career with a typical slow end of a player who doesn’t stop playing soon enough.
|West Ham United
|Nottingham Forest loan
He signed for Arsenal in September 1991 for £2.50m which at the time was a club record. I remember my pal Roger mishearing the announcement on the radio and thinking we had signed Bright, also with Palace. He (Roger) was rather annoyed (to say the least), but relieved that it was Wright after all. I’m not sure any of us thought at the time that Wright was worth the club record fee for – but of course we were wrong, as always.
Wright scored on his Arsenal debut v Leicester in the League Cup, and scored a hat trick in his first League match. He won the Golden Boot in the first season at Highbury and scored the last ever goal in the first division.
All of us who saw him play will have special memories. I can remember watching from the West stand near the North Bank as Wright, laying on the ground having fallen in a tackle, propped himself up on one arm, swung his leg and got a goal.
Fortunately I don’t recall 28 August 1993 when his single, “Do the Wright Thing” entered the charts! And thankfully it was only there for two weeks.
But oh yes I do remember 13 September 1997 when he broke Cliff Bastin’s record with a hattrick against Bolton. He’d been waiting for that final goal for a couple of weeks, and in this match, if my memory is right, Bolton scored first. Then in the 21st minute he scored in front of the Clock End and took off his shirt to reveal the “179” record on his tee-shirt – which was unfortunately because he hadn’t broken the record yet. But then Vieira shot, the ball trickled to Wright and he scored from, oh, what? One yard. Yes about that. Parlour got the third and Wright got his 10th hat trick for Arsenal in the second half.
All wonderful stuff, but sadly it wasn’t always like that. The incident on 13 December 1997 stays in mind. Arsenal had been defeated by Blackburn at home, and Ian Wright leaned out of an office window after the game and shouted abuse at the fans who were protesting. He was warned by the police as to his future conduct.
Moving on there was the May 1998 cup final in which Christopher Wreh played, rather than Wright. Sounds strange doesn’t it. But later that month Wright did play for England, which makes the cup final decision all the more interesting.
By 10 July 1998 as Arsenal (by then of course double winners) went to Boreham Wood for one of the traditional openers, it was suggested that Wright was going and he left three days later for… West Ham. Then on 12 September 1998 Mr Wenger said in public he was looking for a new striker to replace Ian Wright, and would like to sign Emile Heskey. As you will know, we were spared that.
He was our top scorer for six years running, and was part of the Cup Double under Graham in 1993 and was a part of the team that beat Parma in the CWC – although he didn’t play in the final.
He was 32 when Arsène Wenger turned up but Mr Wenger still used him, and he got 23 goals that season, but the injuries associated with advancing years in football slowed him – hence the non-appearance in the cup final.
In July 1998 he went to West Ham but never found his form again. While at Sheffield Wednesday he trashed a ref’s dressing room after being sent off, but he could still get goals – he scored in his first game at Forest and first at Celtic, although there are reports that the Celtic fans turned on him.
He was a resident fool on Match of the Day for a while, but on 17 April 2008, he left the showing saying that he was used as a “comedy jester”. And although he may be applauded for showing up the nonsense of that programme, he has made himself a regular critic of Arsenal, and of course Mr Wenger.
It’s sad that it’s ended like this, because in his prime at Arsenal he was superb.
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