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.
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.