Sunday, March 4, 2012

Football Funnies : Ian Wright : "Football Football"

 Ian Wright made himself an instant idol at Highbury on the back of his showmanship, commitment and finishing ability. A hat-trick for Arsenal on his League debut set him on his way to becoming the leading goalscorer in the club's history. George Graham, the Arsenal manager, considered him indispensable to the Gunners side which reached four major Cup finals in three seasons in the 1990s. 'No successful Arsenal side had ever been so dependent on one man,' Graham said. In a last hurrah at Highbury, Wright helped the club win the Premier League title in 1997-98. Graham rated him as 'one of the top-dozen strikers I have ever seen', as an instinctive finisher in the mould of Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law. 'Just like them, Ian is a natural,' Graham said. Following his £2.5 million transfer from Crystal Palace in 1991, Wright finished the season as the leading goalscorer in Division One, with a total of 29 goals. Three years later he scored for Arsenal in 12 consecutive games, a club record, between 15 September and 23 November 1994. 'Ian had all the qualities you want from a striker: lightning pace, sharp reflexes, courage, and an eye for goal,' Graham said. 

Wright played in two FA Cup finals, both of which went to a replay, scoring four times. Two of those goals were for Crystal Palace in their final against Manchester United in 1990, a game which Palace eventully lost. He also netted in both finals against Sheffield Wednesday in Arsenal's FA Cup and League Cup 'double' success in 1993. In European competition, Wright experienced mixed fortunes. In 1993—94, he missed Arsenal's victory over Parma in the final of the European Cup-winners' Cup because of suspension. The following season he scored in every round of the competition up to the final, only for Arsenal to lose against Real Zaragoza.Ian Wright was already 21 years of age before he made his breakthrough into full-time professional football. He would make up for lost time in spectacular fashion. Wright had been working as a plasterer when Crystal Palace invited him for a two-week trial in 1985. After three days Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, offered him a three-month contract on £100 a week. 'On his first day at Selhurst Park, Ian told me that he wanted to play for England, which was quite a bold statement for someone who had just walked in off a building site,' Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, recalled. Less than five years later Wright fulfilled his ambition, winning the first of his 33 caps for England, and scoring a total of seven goals. 

 In his six seasons at Palace, Wright scored 90 League goals in 225 appearances, helping the club to promotion from Division Two in 1988-89. Soon after making his international debut in the victory over Cameroon at Wembley in February 1991, Wright was on his way to Highbury. George Graham went to great lengths to secure his transfer. To keep his interest secret, and ensure his rivals were not tipped off about Wright's availability, Graham attended the Football Writers' Association's annual golf tournament on the day the deal was finalised. 'I didn't want anyone to guess what we were up to,' he said. At Highbury, Wright's scoring rate increased dramatically. In his first 79 gamtl for Arsenal, he scored 56 goals. Within two years of his arrival, he became the quickest player to register 100 goals for the Gunners, beating the record set by Ted Drake six decades earlier. In total, Wright scored a club-record 185 goals for Arsenal. 'Throughout my life I have always been caught up in the emotion of the game,'

 Ian Wright said in 1997. 'Sometimes my mouth runs away with me.' The force of his character had an immediate impact at Arsenal. 'Ian lit up the pitch and the dressing room with the electricity of his performances and his personality,' George Graham said. On the downside, Wright also found himself at odds with opponents and referees, a behavioural trait that is reflected in a blemished disciplinary record. That same competitive edge got me into fights at school, even at primary school,' Wright said. 'Sometimes I just can't help myself; I just have to tell referees where they are going wrong.' 'He has a touchpaper temper to go with his fizzing spirit,' Graham said. 'I had to douse the fire that was always burning within him. His bubbling enthusiasm could run away with him, but while getting him to control himself I had to be careful not to rob him of his natural desire to compete.' Graham always highlighted the positive aspects of Wright's character. 'There is not a thimbleful of cowardice in him. He is barely five feet nine inches tall which, by modern standards, is quite small for a striker, but there is a lot of power packed in his muscular frame. He also has the courage to go in where it hurts if he feels his reward might be a goal,' Graham said in 1995. 'You couW not ask for a more genuine., honest professional than Ian Wright,' he added.

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