In this Ian Wright biography, we are taking a look at a player that didn’t start his professional career until he was nearly 22 and yet went on to become one of the best strikers that Premier League and Arsenal football club have ever seen.
Join us in this biography of the legendary Arsenal and Crystal Palace strike, Ian Wright, as we explore different sides of Ian Wright’s life, from the hardship he experienced in his childhood up to his 20s and his eventual salvation of becoming a professional footballer at the age of 22
A true working-class hero, Wright made a name for himself by becoming one of the best goal scorers of all time at both Crystal Palace and Arsenal and he is still beloved amongst football fans at both clubs. Now with introduction out of the way, let’s take an extensive look at Ian Wright life story and career in this
Ian Wright biography
In this brief Ian Wright bio, we take a closer look at how he became the best goal scorers in Arsenal history, starting from his days playing Sunday League football to his Premier League glory days with Crystal Palace and Arsenal:
So let’s start Ian Wright bio with a general information about his physical attributes and his position on the pitch:
Full Name: Ian Edward Wright
Profession: former footballer, pundit
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Black
Weight: 73 kg
Professional Debut: 1985
Jersey Number: 8
Date of Birth: 3 November 1963
Birth Place: Woolwich, England
Born in the Woolwich district of London, England, during the Swinging Sixties era where London was finally recovering from the aftermaths of WWII,
Ian Wright date of birth
is 3 November 1963. He was born as the third son of a family of Jamaican immigrants to his mother, Nesta, and his father, Herbert.
His father Herbert walked out on the family pretty soon in Ian’s life so much of
Ian Wright childhood
was spent dealing with his abusive stepfather who used to hit him and his mother as Ian would later reveal. He has described the situation as “volatile” and “intense” until his mom and step-dad finally broke up.
However, Wright found his first positive male role model at school, where his teacher Sydney Pigden took him under his wings at a young age and encouraged him to play football. Ian has much respect for Pigden and years later when he was atArsenal
, the club secretly planned a reunion without Wright knowing and he broke down crying when he saw Pigden after so many years. Pigden set him on the right path and now it was down the kid from Woolich to achieve his dreams, but the path to glory proved far from being easy!
We will now take a look at Wrighty’s career as a footballer in the different teams that he played throughout his career in this section of Ian Wright biography and starting with his time in the amateur Sunday League:
First let’s take a look at Ian Wright’s club career as well as his time with the England national team:
It’s strange to think of one ofEngland’s best-ever strikers
having such a tough time starting his professional career but as for anything in Wrighty’s life, success and even the chances didn’t come easy or often. Wright had trials at Southend United and Brighton Hove & Albion in his teenage years but failed to pass these trials and was never offered a professional contract.
He reverted to playing non-league football and became a Sunday league footballer as he so affectionately remembers. While his talents were superior than any player he played with or against, he was starting to think that he might never turn pro.
For years Wright played for the amateur team Ten-em-Bee until 1985 where he joined the semi-professional Greenwich Borough. Wright was earning 30 pounds a week playing for Greenwich and he had just started his family around the same time and was experiencing poverty. The situation seemed bleak until chance rolled in his favor for once and Wright wasn’t going to let it waste!
After a few weeks of playing for Greenwich Borough,Crystal Palace
scouts were tipped off by one of Greenwich’s rival managers and so Palace came calling to offer Ian Wright a chance at a trial. He impressed Palace’s then-manager Steve Coppell and he was immediately offered a contract, finally becoming a fully professional player at the age of 22!
As he had taken him long enough to get to this stage, Wright didn’t waste any seconds getting adjusted to life at Palace and he hit the ground running. He became Palace’s 2nd best goal scorer in his debut season and soon with the arrival of Mark Bright, the two went on to form a deadly duo that took Palace to the First Division.
In his time at Crystal Palace, Ian Wright was finally called up to England’s senior team, having been featured in England B team prior, and he helped the club stay at the top division by continuing his goal-scoring streak, especially in his second season where he scored 25 goals in all competitions for the Palace. That great record earned him a move to Arsenal a little after the start of the 1991-92 season.
Ian Wright signed for Arsenal in September of 1991 for a deal worth around £2.5 million and became the club’s record transfer at the time. A fee that would be paid tenfold by Wrighty’s performances in the years to come. Arsenal had just won the league the season before and they needed to be reinforced upfront. Wright seemed the perfect man for the job and he delivered in spades, scoring 26 goals in total in his first season and announcing his arrival to the Gooners.
Arsenal failed to retain the title, ending the season in the 4th position and Wrighty was famously snubbed by the England manager, Graham Taylor, by not being included in Euro 92 squad despite being First Division’s top goalscorer with 29 goals that season. but this was just the beginning of the problems he and Arsenal would have in the following years as the club went through several managers following, Graham’s poor results and subsequent departure. At one point, Wright who had problems with manager Bruce Rioch was set to leave the club.
Despite all this unrest at the club, Wright never stopped scoring and actually had his best goal-scoring record during this time in 1993-94 season where he scored 35 goals in total. But all this unrest at the club were put to rest with the arrival of French manager, Arsene Wenger. The club and Wrighty himself experienced a renaissance of sorts and were once again at the top of the league.
His last season at Arsenal would be a memorable one as Wrighty started the 1997-98 season by breaking Cliff Bastin’s goal-scoring record to becomeArsenal’s top goal scorer of all time
and then went on to win his one and only Premier League title at the age of 34. That league title and FA Cup double of 1997-98 rounded out his trophies at Arsenal perfectly as he had already won 2 domestic Cups (FA Cup and League Cup) as well as a European Cup Winners Cup with Arsenal during theGeorge Graham
days as manager.
Wright, who was now 35, departed from Arsenal in July of 1998 to join another London club, West Ham. he failed to replicate his Arsenal form and was mainly involved with altercations off the pitch rather than scoring goals. short unsuccessful spells at Celtic, Nottingham and Burnley followed before Ian Wright retired from football at the end of the 1999-2000 season, having scored a total of 313 career goals.
Although of Jamaican descent
Ian Wright nationality
is English. He represented England in 33 games in which he scored 9 goals. at his prime, Wright was famously overlooked by England managers, particularly Graham Taylor who didn’t take him to Euro 92 despite him being First Division’s top scorer that season. Terry Venables who replaced Taylor treated Wright the same and he once again missed out on being included in Euro 96 squad.
It wasn’t until the appointment of Glenn Hoddle as England manager that Wright started appearing more for England. He helped the country qualify for the 1998 World Cup but failed to once again feature in the squad, this time due to injury. He continued appearing for England after the competition though before retiring from international football prior to Euro 2000.
Wrighty was quite the flamboyant character both on and off the pitch and it showed in his playing style as well. Apart from being a deadly finisher and striker with a mean right foot that could score from anywhere on the pitch, Ian Wright was very much capable of doing tricks and showing off his technique, although in the service of the team.
He was also a striker that flourished when paired with a good partner, especially his partnership at Palace with Mark Bright and the one at Arsenal withDennis Bergkamp
. Wright’s pace, vision and passing ability made him an ideal partner and all-around great forward wherever he played at.
Ian Wright is considered to be one of the best English forwards of the modern era. He describes his carefree Sunday league style of playing as the reason for his success since he had such a flair while playing as if the game was too easy for him, which made the fans love him even more.
He is also of the most beloved figures amongst Arsenal and Crystal Palace fans as well as being part of both communities himself. His direct and honest way of siding with fans and calling out the owners of the clubs whenever they make bad decisions has made him a figure that fans, especially Arsenal fans, look up to.
Apart from beingArsenal’s 2nd best goal scorer of all time
, having been the first for several years, Wright is also Crystal Palace’s 3rd top goal scorer of all time and the best post-war which has made fans vote him as being Crystal Palace’s Player of the Century at the end of the 20th century.
As we mentioned before, Ian Wright was quite a bombastic character and was known for showing a certain flair both in his playing style and his behavior. So naturally, he had quite the collection of goal celebrations which were a joy to watch on themselves.
But his most famous celebration, seen in the picture above, happened on the day that he broke the legendary Cliff Bastin’s record of 178 goals and became Arsenal’s top goal scorer of all time. After he broke the record, he revealed his undershirt which had ‘179 Just Done It’ written on it alongside a Nike logo. The statement was a play on Nike’s ‘Just do It’ motto and in reference to Wright breaking Bastin’s record and “doing it”.
Apart from being a beloved figure in the Arsenal community that has engaged and respected the fans starting with his playing days, Ian Wright is an accomplished pundit and has worked on various channels including the BT Sport, ITV and Sky Sports on occasions.
He is currently one of the lead pundits at BBC’s famous Match of the Day programs and has been heavily featured in covering Premier League, Champions League, World Cup and Euro tournaments in the past decade alongside peers and former teammates, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker.
Our Ian Wright biography wouldn’t be a complete without mentioning his personal life. So read on as we take a look at
Ian Wright life story
, relationships and philanthropy in this
Ian Wright bio
Despite him having a rough childhood, Ian Wright grew up to be quite the family man. He has married twice as well as having a long-term relationship with his girlfriend Sharon Philips. Ian Wright is the father of 8 children (4 sons and 4 daughters) named Shaun (born in 1981), Bradly (1985), Brett (1987), Stacey (1994), Bobbi-Lee (1998), Coco (2004), Lola (2009) and Roxanne (2012).
His first serious relationship was with Sharon Philips who is the mother of Shaun and Bradly. The pair never married but Wright has his son Stacey and daughter Bobbi-Lee from his first marriage with his wife Debbi and daughters Lola and Roxanne with his second wife Nancy Hallam whom she married in 2011.
His adopted son, Shaun Wright-Philips, and his second son both were professional footballers and both played for New York Red Bulls. Although Shaun had a more distinguished career playing for Premier League sides Manchester City and Chelsea. His son Brett was also a footballer for a short time.
Although his mother was very religious and
Ian Wright religion
is actually Christianity, he is not a Christian in a conventional way but he has a spiritual side to him. Wright once told the Guardian in an interview that “My biggest arguments now are with God. Sometimes I believe, sometimes I don’t. I just ask him: ‘Why?’”, alluding to the doubts he felt after the loss of Arsenal legend and his long-time mentor and Friend, David Rocastle, to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 33.
Ian Wright has been active in a lot of charity work since his playing days and since his retirement, he has been even more involved. He has even been awarded an MBE in 2000 for his services on the pitch as well as his charity work.
Apart from being a vocal figure in the fight against racism in football, Wright has been involved with a number of charity foundations including the Street Elite (a charity focused on educating young adults and helping them find jobs and better education) and Team Margot foundation (a charity that helps with child cancer patients).
He is also a patron of the African-Caribbean Leukemia Trust as well as a supporter of disadvantaged footballers within the BAME community.
Ian Wright has been involved in a number of legal issues and altercations. He was once incarcerated for two weeks in the Chelmsford Prison due to not paying fines for driving without tax or insurance, which was a turning point in his life by his own account as he vowed to become a footballer no matter what to never be in such a position of poverty ever again.
While working as a pundit over in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, his wife? Nancy was held at knifepoint and his family home was burgled but thankfully no harm came to any member of his family.
There was also an incident where Wright took an online racist abuser to court in 2019 but the court released the accused on the count of it being his first offense and him coming from a good family. Wright has expressed on numerous occasion how he is abused online by racists daily and has been very vocal in the fight against this kind of behavior.
It’s time to review some statistics in this section of Ian Wright biography, both for the clubs he played at and the England national team:
Ian Wright biography
isn’t complete without his general statistics in the clubs that he played, starting with his days at the Sunday league team Ten-em-Bee, where he played from his teenage days until he was 21. He then joined Greenwich Borough, an amateur club based in southeast London, but after only 7 games he was spotted by Crystal Palace scouts and was offered a trial at the London-based club.
Palace officially signed Wright in August of 1985 and Wrighty went on to become one of their best ever players during the 6 seasons he spent at the club. He ended up scoring 118 goals in 277 matches, helping Palace get promoted to the First Division.
It was then that the big boys started to come in for Ian Wright’s signature and Wright decided to join Arsenal, where his longtime friend and mentor, David Rocastle, used to play. Despite a few turbulent seasons at the start of his career at Arsenal, Wrighty never stopped scoring. Constantly racking 30+ goals a season for Arsenal.
In September of 1997, Ian Wright even broke Cliff Bastin’s record of 178 goals for Arsenal to become the Gunners’ best goal scorer of all time. Although his record was broken byThierry Henry
a few years later, Ian Wright is still the 2nd best goal scorer in Arsenal’s history with an incredible record of 185 goals in 288 games.
Wright left Arsenal in 1998 to join another London club, West Ham United, and by now Wright nearing 36, was coming to the end of his career. He scored 9 goals in 25 matches for West Ham in his first season and in his second season he had 3 short spells at Nottingham Forest, Celtic and Burnley, scoring 12 goals in a total of 35 matches in those 3 clubs. Then, Ian Wright finished his football at Burnley after scoring 313 career goals.
Making his debut for February in 1991 against Cameroon, Ian Wright went on to score 9 goals in 33 matches for England. He helped England reach the Euro 1992 final but was famously overlooked when it came to the national team. His final game for England, like his debut, was at Wembley stadium but this time against Czech Republic in 1998.
The only ever managerial job that Ian Wright held was with Milton Keynes Dons as he was appointed the part-time manager of the club alongside ex-Luton Manager, Mark Harford, in 18 May 2012. The pair went on to help MK Dons to one of their most successful FA Cup campaigns, reaching the fifth round by beating Championship sides and QPR (then a Premier League side). Wright then departed from the club in 2013 after helping them reach 10th position in League One.
In the final section of Ian Wright biography, we take a brief look at his achievements, either team or individual achievements, in a 16-year long career entirely spent in UK.
After getting rejected by Southend United and Brighton as a teenager, Ian Wright found success by playing for the amateur side Ten-em-Bee for a couple of years before joining the semi-professional Greenwich Borough in 1985. At Greenwich he was spotted by a Crystal Palace scout and was invited for a trial at Selhurst Park which he passed and subsequently joined Palace, officially becoming a professional footballer at the age of 22.
At Palace, Wrighty joined forces with Mark Bright to create a deadly partnership in attack and the pair went on to help Palace qualify for the First Division. After 6 seasons with Palace, Ian Wright managed to score 118 goals for the club and become its third-best goal scorer of all time.
It was at this time that Arsenal came calling and Wrighty joined the league title-holders in 1991. He once again hit the ground running, scoring 26 goals in his first season and becoming the top goal scorer of the league. he won a cup Double (FA Cup and League Cup) in his second season at Arsenal and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1993-94 season.
But it wasn’t until the arrival of Arsene Wenger that Wrighty would experience success once again, as he broke Bastin’s all-time goal-scoring record for Arsenal and won the Premier League and FA Cup double in his final season at the club. Two uneventful seasons at West Ham, Celtic, Nottingham and Burnely followed before Ian Wright retired from football in 2000.
On an individual level, Ian Wright has become First Division’s top goal scorer once in 1992 and has been included in Premier League Team of the Season twice. He is part of Crystal Palace’s Centenary XI, their 3rd top goal scorer of all time as well as being Arsenal’s 2nd top goal scorer of all time. In 2005, he was also inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
A true working-class hero, Wright set an example by showing how hard work can get you the things in football and he has maintained that humble attitude even to this day. He brought joy to all fans everywhere he went and he will forever be remembered as one ofEngland’s most prolific strikers
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Ian Wright biography
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