A tribute to Ian Wright on being honoured in the Premier League Hall of Fame

Ian Wright became the 4th Gunner this week to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame.

All 16 members, I’m sure, are honoured to have been acknowledged, yet you sense not many will have been as proud and humbled more than our former striker.

Despite at one point being Arsenal’s highest goal scorer, Golden Boots, Cup Finals and in possession of every domestic winner’s medal available to him, Wright has never forgotten where he came from, what his world pre-football looked like, and where his life could have ended up going.

That’s why he remains such a popular personality within the sport because he’s relatable. Why do think every time Adidas want to sell merchandise, they ask the 58-year-old to be their poster boy?

Because if you’re a youngster growing up in London, where gang culture and knife crime is an issue, here is a role model to look up to.

Evidence that you can come from a broken home, be in the wrong crowd, feel uneducated, and yet use your passion as an an outlet.

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 21: (L-R) Wayne Rooney, Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and Vincent Kompany receive Premier League Hall of Fame medallions during the Premier League Hall of Fame 2022 on April 21, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images for eSC)

While wealthy now, Wright never forgot that feeling of poverty, struggling to feed his wife who was carrying their first child, after being rejected by professional clubs.

He has often told the story of breaking down in prison (driving without being insured) and that being his turning point, the moment he vowed that he had to make his dream come true for his family.

At the age of 22 he was still essentially a part timer, playing for Greenwich Borough while working for Tunnel Refineries.

Given how he would easily adapt to the highest level, you can only imagine the mental anguish knowing you’re so talented and yet not getting the stage to prove it while your peers did.

Crystal Palace offered him a 2-week trial after spotting him playing on a Sunday morning.

How many young players would have to deal with being conflicted by having to walk away from a full-time job which put food on the table for the sake of chasing a dream that might end after 14 days?

A fortnight was extended to 3 months and 6 weeks into his agreement at the age of 22, after scratching and clawing to get noticed, Ian Wright was a professional footballer.

There was zero adjusting needed from non-League, Wright scoring the goals that would take the Eagles from Division 2 and getting a brace in the FA CUP Final.

So, it quickly became clear that the industry had failed this talent by not giving him an opportunity sooner.

I often write about, over the years, there not being enough leaders in our dressing room who teach youngsters the ethos of the badge, the honour of the shirt, the club’s values and tradition.

Listen to Ian Wright talk about sleeping round David Rocastle’s house the night before his first Arsenal training session, it gives you goosebumps.

The two who grew up on the same estate, stayed up all night with Wright listening to stories about ‘the Arsenal’.

Wright scored a hattrick in his League debut and never looked back, finishing as the division’s top scorer.

He became the main attacking threat in an era where we were built on defensive discipline, often trusted to take the few opportunities we created.

Even rival fans loved him as he always played with a smile on his face, like someone so grateful for the platform he could display his art on.

For a 9-year period no player had scored more goals for the Arsenal then Ian Wright.

His legacy though, is his personality and charisma which lit up Highbury.

You believed when you watched Ian Wright he cared as much as you did.

In many ways the game failed him.

He should have been snapped up as a teenager and taught and educated.

Instead, he had to learn how to be a pro at 22 and look what he achieved.

Imagine if a club had given him that chance years earlier?

We are in an era where kids get paid thousands of pounds before they even kick a ball, protected in posh academies with various departments looking after every aspect of his life.

Ian Wright is that rare breed where he can look that man in the street in the eye and relate to struggling for money, have empathy with the boredom of a 9-5 job, know what it’s like to be on an hamster wheel pushing against the wind.

He’s chased dreams when told he was running after illusions.

Acknowledgment like a place in the Hall Of Fame is the reward for his good decisions.

Like a lot of ex-players, he’s been welcomed into the world of media.

When first invited on Match of The Day he didn’t look at it as a step down from his career.

That was the programme he craved to watch as a little boy. Yet his stepfather would deliberately make that boy turn and face the wall.

That young boy could hear the sounds but would cry, not even allowed the comfort of seeing his heroes on that screen.

Decades later he’s a pundit on the same show.

That story sums up the man.

A rag to riches story.

Ian Wright shouldn’t have succeeded, which is why he offers hope.

He didn’t make it due to love, support and wealth.

He made it due to drive, will and a refusal to be anything less than himself.

On behalf of everyone at Justarsenal, well done Wrighty.


Dan Smith

Tags Ian Wright


    1. My one massive claim to fame, was I played against Wrighty when he was at Greenwich Borough. I was centre back that day and amazingly we kept a clean sheet and knocked them out of the London Cup with a last minute goal. We even started the match with only 9 men as some of our players were late. I wasn’t even supposed to play as I was the manager, lol.

  1. This begs the question tho how do the other 99.999% of society get rich with out getting an education and workng a regular job. Where is the hope for everyone else apart from marrying a billionaire or winning the lottery?

    1. You don’t have to get rich to have a good life. The important thing is to not live beyond your means as you establish yourself in life. When you get the opportunities, to make decisions be in a good position to take them not a desperate one. I remember coming out of prison at 29 feeling pretty desperate, with not much to my name. 14 years later at 43 I retired from working for other people and lived off my small portfolio of properties. Three of the 6 still have mortgages, but will keep me going until I take state pension in 10 years.

      During that time I have raised 3 children pretty much alone, who are now all at university. It’s not how much money you have, it’s how you spend it that counts.

  2. Great article about human perseverance for a true legend and a hero when I watched the Arsenal growing up in the eighties.

  3. Congratulations to Ian Wright for his well deserved election. Also congratulations to Dan Smith on a beautifully written article.
    In response to fairfan, unfortunately the “anti intellectualism” in many western societies demeans the advantages of staying at school, getting an education and then applying oneself at a trade, through an apprenticeship or tertiary study to enter the professions. Not everyone has the ability or application to become a professional sports person; however many more have the ability to get a good education. Personally, although a more than competent sports person, I am glad I put my application and commitment to getting a good education.

    1. Ozziegunner, I can only agree with you 100% my friend.
      Wrighty will always be a legend in my eyes and, if only David Rocastle had lived, I’m sure he would also have been indoctrinated into the hall of fame as well.
      Just one of many mistakes George Graham made, I might add.
      One of my prized possessions, is a signed autobiography of Ian Wright – how to succeed with self belief, God given ability and humility.

  4. Beautiful write up about one of my favourite Gunners, next to Rocky Rocastle. Got me all misty over here…🥹

  5. BRAVO Dan for writing such a magnetic, intelligent and above all a truthful piece.


    Please therefore KEEP to this standard!

  6. Nice article Dan , and to wright, a well deserved accolade. I can relate to everything he went through to some extent, most parents in Africa never considered football as a career . We used to sneak go play a football match , come for some beating et all… I haven’t made it in life yet but you are an inspiration to many of us

    1. Kenya 001, just had to comment on your inspirational post – the very fact that you are still striving, is a testiment to you personally.
      Ian Wright would want to shake your hand!!!

  7. First time I saw him was in that FA cup final against Utd think he scored a couple then they lost in the replay.
    The iconic due of him and mark bright leading the line for palace is what I remember as I was about 10 at the time then the season after we signed him up and the rest is history .
    Thing that sticks in my mind was he had a distinctive running style but could he bang them goals in ,one of my top 5 players in our history and a great bloke away from the game .
    Imagine if he had signed alittle earlier in his career for us .

  8. We all recognize that football is a game that teaches valuable life lessons, and perhaps none more than how to respond to adversity

    If there is ever such a person to rise from adversity, is our own Legend, self driven Weighty

  9. Great and well deserved achievement for our true legend. Wright is perhaps one the greatest Arsenal lovers among our legends. He never shies away from expressing his true love for the club. It is no exaggeration to say that Arsenal oozes in his blood stream. Cheers Ian Wright.

  10. Good one Wrighty, and well deserved recognition for a player who was an inspired but and allowed Arsenal fans to dream again. Also the best of the ex player pundits with his honest incisive analysis. At all times he remains a true fan.

  11. What a load of $##$@.

    A bunch of fat ego-centric footballers patting themselves on the back, saying how wonderful am I?

    What about the many thousands of players who played during the 100+ years before the rich created this overblown Premier League.

    This just makes me SICK!!

  12. What a wonderful and moving tribute to Ian Wright, congratulations and thank you Dan Smith I really enjoyed reading the article.

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