Tommy Wright: Attacking footballer who shone alongside Len Shackleton at Sunderland, 'the Bank of England club'

When Sunderland's extravagant spending in the decade after the Second World War earned them a slightly raffish reputation as "the Bank of England club", their headlines tended to be generated by the likes of Len Shackleton, Trevor Ford and Billy Bingham.

Yet few men did more to further the Wearsiders' cause during that colourful but ultimately unfulfilling phase of their history than the stellar trio's dashingly direct fellow attacker, Tommy Wright.

The Scottish international right- winger, who contributed punch and penetration, ceaseless industry and not a few goals, was ever-present as the Roker Park side finished third in the top flight in 1949-50, the only time they have scaled such rarefied heights since they were champions in 1936 during the early heyday of the revered Raich Carter. Wright, who could also perform with distinction in any other forward position, was consistent, too, his goal tally reaching double figures in four out of his five full seasons in the North-east, the fifth being sabotaged by injury.

After being spotted playing for one of his local clubs, Blairhall Colliery in Clackmannanshire, Wright was taken to Glasgow by Partick Thistle in 1945. He made his senior debut in 1947-48, his skill and brio contributing impressively to the Jags' third-place finish in the élite division behind Hibernian and Rangers, and when he commenced the following season in similarly effective form, it became obvious that his tenure at Firhill would be short-lived.

Accordingly, in March 1949 an £8,000 bid from Sunderland was accepted and Wright inherited the Rokerites' No 7 shirt from Len Duns, a veteran of the title win 13 yearsearlier. After bedding into the side that spring, the newcomer shone throughout the following campaign, in which Sunderland finished only a point adrift of the champions, Portsmouth, and runners-up Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Forming a productive right-flank combination with Ivor Broadis, and also linking smoothly with the other inside-forward, the dazzling but eccentric Shackleton, Wright became a stalwart of Bill Murray's entertaining team, his personal highlight a hat-trick in a 4-2 home victory over Everton in the penultimate game of the season when the big prize was still at stake. During 1950-51 the fearsome physical presence of spearhead Trevor Ford was added to the mix, and Wright became one of the abrasive Welshman's chief providers, his crosses and through-balls resulting in countless goalscoring opportunities.

Fitness problems cost him most of the subsequent season, but he was back in both peak condition and form for 1952-53, during which he earned his three Scotland caps, helping to beat Wales 2-1 at Ninian Park and featuring in draws with Northern Ireland at Hampden Park and England at Wembley. His settling-in at the higher level could not have been helped by being paired with a different inside partner each time – first Allan Brown, then Jimmy Logie and finally Bobby Johnstone – but he gave an acceptable account of himself and some observers reckoned he was unfortunate to be discarded thereafter.

Wright was edged off the international stage by a succession of rivals, including Rangers' powerful Willie Waddell, big John McKenzie of Partick Thistle and Hibernian's elegant Gordon Smith – but he continued to thrive at club level, enjoying his most prolific season in the 1953-54 season when his 18 goals in 38 appearances were hugely influential in Sunderland escaping relegation to the Second Division.

However, having reached his mid-30s, and with the excellent Bingham laying unarguable claim to the right- wing slot, in January 1955 Wright returned to his homeland to join East Fife as makeweight in the deal which took the prolific marksman Charlie "Cannonball" Fleming to Roker Park. Back in the Scottish League's top tier he looked comfortable, one of the more stylish members of the Bayview staff, and his 18 goals in 36 games were an admirable addition to the 55 in 180 outings achieved in more demanding circumstances on Wearside.

Wright surprised many observers by re-crossing the border to join Oldham Athletic of the Third Division North in March 1957 – the fee was £700 – but he sojourned only briefly at Boundary Park, leaving the Football League that summer to join North Shields. Thus he completed a commendable career , setting the example for several family members to follow a similar path. His son, also Tommy Wright, played for five English clubs – most notably Leeds United, Oldham and Leicester City – in the 1980s and '90s, and was a Scotland under-21 international; one nephew, Jackie Sinclair, who died last year, excelled for Dunfermline Athletic, Leicester City and others, and was capped once by Scotland; and another, Willie Sinclair, played for Falkirk, Huddersfield Town and several more.

Thomas Wright, footballer: born Blandhill, Clackmannanshire 28 January 1928; played for Partick Thistle 1945-49, Sunderland 1949-55, East Fife 1955-57, Oldham Athletic 1957; three Scotland caps; died Sunderland 5 May 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before