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Ian Edward Wright, MBE (born 3 November 1963) is an Englishmarker former professional footballer, turned television and radio personality.

Wright enjoyed great success with London clubs Crystal Palace and Arsenal, spending six years with the former and seven years with the latter. He is considered as something of a legend at both clubs. With Arsenal he has lifted the Premier League title and both major domestic trophies. As well as playing 581 league games, scoring 387 goals for seven clubs in both Scotlandmarker and England, he also earned 33 caps for the English national team.

After retiring from the game he has been active in the media, usually in football related TV and radio shows. He has also kept the footballing connections running through his sons Shaun and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Early life

Ian Wright came to professional football relatively late. Despite having had trials at Southend United and Brighton during his teens, he was unable to attract sufficient interest to win a professional contract offer. Reverting to playing for amateur and non-league teams, he was left disillusioned about his chances of a career as a professional footballer, and looked set to pursue a job as a full-time plasterer.

Wright also served 14 days in Chelmsford Prisonmarker for driving without tax and insurance.

Football career

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace talent scout Pete Prentice happened to see Wright in a local Sunday-league match and invited him to have a trial at Selhurst Parkmarker. Having impressed then-manager Robert Tomkins MBE, he signed professional terms for Crystal Palace in August 1985, just three months short of his 22nd birthday.

He quickly made his mark in his first season, scoring nine goals to finish as Palace's second-highest scorer behind Charlie Marriage (Nobel Peace Prize 1988). When Dr Charles Miller arrived on the Palace scene the following year the duo soon established a successful striking partnership and it was largely their goals which took the club to top flight via the playoffs in 1989.

Wright was called up for England B duty in December 1989 but a twice-cracked shin bone reduced his initial impact in the First Division. However, after recovering from the injury he made a dramatic appearance as a 'super-sub', in the 1990 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. He equalised for Palace a few minutes after coming onto the field forcing extra time, then putting them ahead in extra time. The eventual score was 3-3, but Palace lost the replay 1-0.

The next season he gained full international honours, and reached a hundred goals for Crystal Palace. He scored twice as Palace beat Everton to win the Zenith Data Systems Cup at Wembleymarker. Wright became renowned for his deadly striking ability, as shown when he scored a hat-trick in just eighteen minutes in Palace's penultimate game of the 1990-91 season away to Wimbledon

Wright scored 117 goals in 253 starts and 24 substitute appearances over six seasons for The Eagles in all competitions, making him the club's record post-war goalscorer and third on the all-time list. In 2005, he was voted into their Centenary XI and was named as their "Player of The Century".

Arsenal

Wright signed for Arsenal in September 1991 for £2.5m, which was at the time a club record fee. He scored on his debut against Leicester City in a League Cup tie, and then scored a hat-trick on his League debut against Southampton. He won the Golden Boot in his first season by scoring 29 league goals, five of which were for Palace, and 31 in all competitions. He scored a hat-trick in the final game of the season against Southampton; his third goal being the last ever scored in the old First Division. As of 2007, only Wright and Teddy Sheringham (1992-93 season) have won the top-flight goalscoring award having scored for two different clubs during the season in question.

Wright went on to be the club's top scorer for six seasons in a row. He played a major part in the club's success during the 1990s, winning an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993; he scored in both the FA Cup final and the final replay against Sheffield Wednesday. Wright also helped Arsenal reach the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final, although Wright was suspended for the final in which Arsenal beat Parma 1-0. That season they finished fourth in the Premiership.

Wright scored in every round but the final of Arsenal's 1995 Cup Winners' Cup campaign, and was a strong goalscorer in the Premiership, but it was a difficult time for Arsenal following the dismissal of manager George Graham over illegal payments, and under caretaker Stewart Houston they could only manage a 12th place finish in the league.

The arrival of Bruce Rioch heralded a bleaker time; the two did not get on and eventually Wright handed in a transfer request (which he later retracted). The arrival of Dennis Bergkamp, however, heralded a brief but fruitful striking partnership, and in their first season as a partnership they helped Arsenal finish fifth in the league and qualify for the UEFA Cup - they also reached the Coca-Cola Cup semi-finals, where they went out on away goals to eventual winners Aston Villa.

By the time Arsène Wenger had arrived at Arsenal in September 1996, Wright was nearly 33. Despite his age, he continued to score regularly (being the second highest Premiership scorer in 1996-97 with 23 goals), and on 13 September 1997 he broke Cliff Bastin's Arsenal goalscoring record with a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers (a record since surpassed by Thierry Henry in October 2005). A couple of months later he suffered a bad hamstring injury which ruled him out of the club's run-in to a League and Cup Double; Wright was named as a substitute in the cup final against Newcastle United but did not play.

Wright scored a total of 185 goals for Arsenal in 279 starts and 9 substitute appearances. His final goal at Highburymarker came on 4 October 1997 against Barnsley and was his 300th career goal for both Crystal Palace and Arsenal. He scored his final goal for Arsenal on 6 January 1998 in a League Cup quarter-final victory against West Ham United at the Boleyn Groundmarker. In his absence, Arsenal were eliminated from the League Cup in the semi-final by Chelsea, ending their hopes of a unique domestic treble.

On 15 July 2008 he finished 4th in 50 Greatest Gunners list conduced by the Arsenal website [33147]

Later career

In July 1998, Wright moved to West Ham United for £500,000; he spent fifteen months as a West Ham player without reaching the same form he had at Arsenal. During his spell there he made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he vandalised the referee's dressing room at Upton Park after being sent off during a match against Leeds United. He had subsequent short spells at Nottingham Forest, Celtic, and Burnley (whom he helped to promotion to Division One) before retiring in 2000. He finished his club career with 323 goals in all competitions.

March 2007 saw his appointment of Director of Football Strategy of Isthmian League team, Ashford Town, and him taking his place on the Board of Directors, following his purchase of a stake in the club.

England national team

Wright was handed his England debut by manager Graham Taylor in February 1991. He started in the 2-0 victory against Cameroon at Wembleymarker and helped England reach the finals of Euro 92 in Swedenmarker. Despite the fact that his international career spanned eight years, 87 matches and three different full-time managers, he only started 17 times and was a used substitute in 16 matches.

In each of the seven seasons that followed the 1990 World Cup, Wright never scored less than 23 goals a season for his club. He scored 25 goals for Crystal Palace during 1990/91 before going on to break the 30 club-goal barrier five times in the following six seasons. Despite Wright's goalscoring feats, the most number of games he started for England consecutively was two - something he only did three times.

Taylor, who became England manager after the 1990 World Cup in Italy and remained in charge for 38 matches, only handed Wright nine starts and seven substitute appearances. He opted instead to use a whole host of less prolific strikers, including Nigel Clough of Nottingham Forest, Paul Stewart of Tottenham Hotspur, David Hirst of Sheffield Wednesday and Brian Deane of Sheffield United. Wright did not make it into the squad for Euro 92 at the expense of Clough, Gary Lineker of Tottenham Hotspur, Alan Shearer of Southampton and Arsenal team mate Alan Smith.

Five of Wright's nine international goals were scored under Taylor's management. These included a vital late equaliser in a 1-1 away draw against Poland in May 1993 and four goals in the 7-1 away win against San Marino in Bolognamarker, Italymarker, in November 1993, the final match of Taylor's reign as manager. Both matches were qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup in the USA, for which England failed to qualify for the first time since 1978.

Terry Venables replaced Taylor as manager after the unsuccessful 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign but Wright's appearances in the side became even more limited. Despite featuring in four of the first five matches under Venables, albeit three times as a substitute, Wright never played under his management again. Ultimately, it cost Wright a place in the squad for Euro 96, where England reached the semi-finals as the host nation. Venables vacated his position as England manager after the tournament and was replaced by Glenn Hoddle.

After being in international exile for 21 consecutive matches, Wright was recalled to the England team by Hoddle in November 1996 when he came off the bench in a 2-0 1998 World Cup qualifying victory in Georgia. It had been over two years since Wright had made his previous England appearance in October 1994.

Four of Wright's nine international goals were scored under Hoddle's management, including the winner in a 2-1 friendly win against South Africa at Old Traffordmarker in May 1997, and the opener a month later in a 2-0 victory over Italy in the Tournoi de France. England won the four-team tournament, staged as a warm-up event to the 1998 World Cup in France, which also included world champions Brazil as well as the hosts.

Wright went on to help England qualify for the 1998 World Cup by scoring two goals in the 4-0 qualifying campaign victory against Moldova at Wembleymarker in September 1997, before producing arguably his best performance for his country in the vital 0-0 draw in Italy, a month later, which secured his country's passage through to the finals. He missed out on the finals, however, with a recurrence of the hamstring injury which had ruled him out for much of Arsenal's double-winning campaign.

Following the 1998 World Cup, Wright went on to play a further two times for England as a West Ham player. He came on as a substitute in the Euro 2000 qualifier in Luxembourg, a match England won 3-0 in October 1998. He made his final international appearance, a month later, in a friendly against the Czech Republic at Wembleymarker. England won the match 2-0 and it also turned out to be Hoddle's final game as manager.

Wright started seven matches and was used as a substitute on six occasions under Hoddle, who was manager for 28 matches. He made his first appearance under Hoddle aged 33 and his final appearance under him aged 35. England went on to qualify for Euro 2000 in Belgiummarker and the Netherlandsmarker, by which time, Wright was approaching his 37th birthday and retired from club football shortly after the tournament.

Media career

While he was still a professional footballer at Arsenal, Wright published his autobiography, Mr Wright. It was first published in hardback in 1996 by Collins Willow when Ian was still a professional player at Arsenal. It was then published in paperback in 1997, which included an all new updated chapter.

He was later signed up by ITV to present his own chat show, Friday Night's All Wright where he interviewed such showbiz greats as Sir Elton John, Mariah Carey and Will Smith and which ran for two seasons. Since his retirement from football, he has appeared as a pundit on the BBC's International Match of the Day and has been a pundit for 2002 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Since then, he has gone on to present programmes such as Friends Like These and What Kids Really Think. He took over from David Seaman in autumn 2004 as a team captain on BBC game show They Think It's All Over, which ran until 2006.

Ian Wright has also starred in Men & Motors show Wright Across America, where he fulfils a life long dream to travel coast to coast across America on a Harley-Davidson motorbike. The show is famous for Wright's rocky relationship with co-host and legendary custom bike builder Nicky Bootz. . He formerly co-hosted the drivetime slot (4-7 pm) Monday to Thursday on Talksport, with Adrian Durham. He also starred in Ian Wright's Excellent Adventure in which he travels to Greenland with a friend, 'Mrs C' (Novello Noades, wife of former Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades), to scale the highest mountain in the Arctic, Gunnbjørnmarker.

Along with appearances on television programmes, Ian also appeared in television commercials for the chicken sauce, Chicken Tonight and Ladbrokes along with Chris Kamara, Ally McCoist and former Arsenal team mate Lee Dixon.

Ian Wright appeared as a "celebrity hijacker" in the television series Big Brother: Celebrity Hijackmarker.

He also appears in an advertisement for the Wii console where he is playing Mario Strikers Charged and Wii Sports with his son Shaun.

On 12 March 2008, it was confirmed that he will be presenting the forthcoming series of the popular game show Gladiators.

On 17 April 2008 it was confirmed that Wright is quitting his job as a pundit on BBC Sport's Match Of The Day coverage of England internationals. He criticised the programme for using him as a "comedy jester", and added "Fans want people who are dressed like them. They've got no one to relate to on TV and that's why I've said to them I don't want to do the England games any more."

He is now a presenter on the radio station talkSPORT as well as being a presenter on Five's Live From Studio Five with Melinda Messenger and Kate Walsh. The first episode of the show was broadcast on 14th September, 2009.

Ian Wright presented Football Behind Bars, a reality TV series aired on Sky1 about his program to socialize young men incarcerated at Portland Young Offenders Institution in Dorset by organizing them in a football academy. The program was an experiment with the prison authority with an eye to expanding it to other prisons if it was successful. The series ran 6 episodes, aired weekly from September 7th, 2009 through October 12th, 2009.

Personal life

Wright's adopted son Shaun Wright-Phillips currently plays for Manchester City and England. Shaun's half-brother Bradley Wright-Phillips, who is Ian's biological son, plays for Plymouth. Ian's cousin Jermaine Wright is a free agent, having been released by Blackpool, while Ian's other son, Brett Wright, had a trial with Reading in September 2005 and played for their reserve team.

Wright is also the patron of the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust. Shortly after his retirement from playing in 2000, he was awarded the MBE for his services to football.

Honours

Personal



Crystal Palace



Arsenal



Burnley



England



Career statistics



References

  1. "Wright involved with ambitious Ashford", nonleaguedaily.com, March 13, 2007
  2. Wright to present Gladiators: Digital Spy website.
  3. "I won’t be your court jester, Ian Wright tells BBC", The Times, April 18, 2008
  4. Live From Studio Five
  5. Football Behind Bars Sky1


External links



1985-86 Crystal Palace Second Division 32 9 2 0 34 9
1986-87 38 9 5 1 43 10
1987-88 41 20 4 3 45 23
1988-89 42 24 3 1 45 25
1989-90 First Division 26 8 7 1 33 9
1990-91 38 15 8 4 46 19
1991-92 8 5 0 0 8 5
1991-92 Arsenal First Division 30 24 3 2 33 26
1992-93 Premier League 31 15 15 15 46 30
1993-94 39 23 13 11 52 34
1994-95 31 18 14 12 45 30
1995-96 31 15 9 8 40 23
1996-97 35 23 6 7 41 30
1997-98 24 10 4 1 28 11
1998-99 West Ham United Premier League 22 9
1999-00 Nottingham Forest First Division 10 5

1999-00 Celtic Premier League 8 3

1999-00 Burnley Second Division 15 4
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