England Football Online
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Ian Wright,
It Shouldn't Happen To A Footballer

England Football Online's interview with Ian Wright


Ian Wright & Chris Goodwin, 18 October 2006

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 meet.
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, reviewed 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 goalscorer.  He 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 high.
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 who know's.
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 honour'. 
In conclusion, it was an unbelievable honour to chat with a living legend.  What more can I say...?  Apart from my wife is devastated....
This interview is based on an actual conversation between Ian Wright and Chris Goodwin.