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Premier League Hall of Fame: Ian Wright

One of the most prolific goalscorers English football has ever seen, Ian Wright was inducted into the Premier League's Hall of Fame in 2022.

Ian Wright Profile:

NameIan Wright
Date of Birth03/11/1963
Place of BirthWoolwich, London, England
Premier League club(s)Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham
Premier League appearances213
Premier League goals113
Premier League assists22
Premier League titles1

From Sunday league to the Premier League

If any footballer's path to the top merited being turned into a biopic film, it would be the career of Ian Wright.

Playing for Lewisham-based amateur Sunday League outfit Ten-em-Bee up until the age of 21, Wright's first wage as a footballer was £30 per week after opting to join semi-professional side Greenwich Borough.

The gifted Wright would not spend long in the semi-professional ranks, with the young striker invited for a trial by Second Division side Crystal Palace after being recommended to the club by the manager of Dulwich Hamlet who had been impressed by what he had seen from the 21-year-old.

Palace boss Steve Coppell did not need much convincing to sanction the transfer in August 1985, with the Eagles agreeing to provide Dulwich Hamlet with a new set of weightlifting equipment in exchange for their prized asset, with Wright signing his first professional contract in football three months prior to his 22nd birthday.

Wright would make a smooth transition into the professional game, finishing as Palace's second-top goalscorer on nine in his debut campaign as Coppell's charges finished in fifth place in the second tier in the 1985/86 season.

It was not until Mark Bright arrived at Selhurst Park that Palace and Wright fully prospered, with the new arrival forming a fearsome striking partnership with the former non-league hitman. 

Fostering an almost telepathic understanding in attack, Wright and Bright fired Palace to promotion to the top flight via the play-offs in 1989 - with the former finishing as the club's top scorer with 33 goals in all competitions.

Although suffering with injury problems in his maiden top flight campaign, Wright was to make headlines at the end of the season when he returned to fitness to net twice as a substitute in the FA Cup final, with the Eagles drawing 3-3 against Manchester United before losing the replay 1-0.

The subsequent season - 1990/91 - saw the rapidly improving Wright inspire Palace to their highest ever finish of third in the top flight, surpassing the 100-goal mark for the club in the process.

It came as little surprise to see some of the country's top clubs begin to sniff around, with Wright eventually moving on in 1991 as Palace's record post-war goalscorer.

Arsenal come calling

After just two seasons as a top flight footballer, Ian Wright had already shown enough to persuade Arsenal manager George Graham to part with a club-record fee of £2.5m for the striker a few weeks into the 1991/92 campaign.

He will be glad he did, with Wright and Arsenal a match made in football heaven.

Wright was able to make an instant impact at Highbury, bagging a hat-trick on his league debut against Southampton to kickstart a debut campaign which saw him end on 31 goals in all competitions, with his tally of 29 in the First Division making him the league's top scorer.

The charismatic striker would go on to finish as the Gunners' top scorer six seasons in a row and become adored by the club's supporters, with 'Wrighty' at the heart of the team which secured the FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993 and European Cup Winners' Cup the year after.

Arsenal would endure difficult times in the mid-90s - winning no trophies between 1994 and 1997 - but Wright's eye for goal never waned as he continued to lead the line with distinction on the red side of North London.

It was not until the arrival of the relatively unknown French manager Arsene Wenger at Highbury in September 1996 that Arsenal's fortunes started to pick up again, with Wright continuing to play a prominent role at the age of 33 as he notched 23 Premier League goals in the 1996/97 season.

In September 1997, Wright's legendary status at Arsenal went up a notch as he became the club's all-time record scorer after hitting his 178th goal for the club with a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers, prompting a memorable celebration in which the ex-Crystal Palace hotshot revealed a t-shirt featuring the words "Just Done It".

The 1997/98 campaign would prove to be Wright's last as an Arsenal player, with the club icon able to lift his first Premier League title as Wenger's charges completed the domestic Double which also included the FA Cup.

With a total of 185 goals in 288 appearances, Wright left Highbury as not only one of the greatest goalscorers in Arsenal's history, but one of the most loved figures in the eyes of the club's supporters.

His Premier League career was not yet fully over, however, with Wright spending 15 months as a West Ham player between 1998 and 1999, scoring a commendable nine goals in 22 league appearances.

Style of play:

Having only turned professional aged 21 and not benefited from elite level coaching as a young player, Wright's game would initially revolve around his natural athleticism and footballing instincts.

Boasting great pace and agility, Wright was a bonafide natural goalscorer capable of finding the net from all distances and angles.

Always supremely confident in his own ability, Wright would back himself to score in any match, with his quickness of movement and thought making him elusive for defenders.

Playing the game with a smile on his face, Wright was a likeable figure and a firm fans' favourite at both Selhurst Park and Highbury.

Life after football:

Since hanging up his boots, Wright has become one of the most popular figures in British football broadcasting, regularly appearing on prominent TV stations such as BBC, ITV and BT Sport.

As well as regular appearances on TV and radio shows, Wright also spent a brief period as first team coach at MK Dons between 2012 and 2013.

Wright has also written two books - an autobiography entitled A Life in Football and a novel co-written with author Musa Okwonga called Striking Out.

Did you know?

Prior to making it as a professional footballer, Wright once spent two weeks in prison for failing to pay fines for driving without tax or insurance. He has since recalled how this experience helped drive his quest to pursue a full-time career in football.

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