Arsenal tell Wright to stay at Highbury

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The Independent Online
The ball was pushed firmly back into Ian Wright's court yesterday when Arsenal rejected his transfer request and said he must serve out his recently signed four-year contract.

The former England striker, who said he was "not happy any more" at Highbury, startled the Gunners' management by handing in a transfer request last week. Chelsea headed the queue of clubs hoping to sign the experienced marksman, but the Arsenal manager, Bruce Rioch, recommended to the Highbury board that they reject Wright's plea.

Yesterday, the Highbury managing director, Ken Friar, formally announced that the club had told the 32-year-old Wright that his future remains with Arsenal. "The board have advised Ian they are not prepared to grant his request for a transfer, which he made recently," Friar said. "This was a unanimous decision of the board and the manager."

"Ian's contribution to the club's success has been considerable over recent years, and we are sure that, as a true professional, it will continue to be so throughout the remainder of his contract," Friar added. "We all very much wish him to stay."

The decision is a blow to Chelsea's manager, Glenn Hoddle, who clearly saw Wright as an extra cutting edge in his club's quest for European qualification. Hoddle had already had one inquiry for Wright dismissed and said earlier this week: "If Arsenal say Wright is available we would be interested, but if they say he must stay we will respect that decision."

Wright cost pounds 2.5m from Crystal Palace in September 1991 and two years later helped Arsenal achieve a unique Wembley double of the FA Cup and League Cup. Last season he hit 30 goals including nine in the European Cup-Winners' Cup, scoring in every round apart from the final - which Arsenal lost to Real Zaragoza after extra time.

Wright has missed Arsenal's last three matches, two through suspension and one because of injury, but before that was handed the captaincy in the absence of Tony Adams. The Gunners' Dutch international, Dennis Bergkamp, was among those who publicly urged Wright to reconsider his decision to seek a move.

Wright must now wait to learn whether he is recalled to the starting side at Wimbledon on Saturday after his stand-in, John Hartson, hit two goals in last week's win over Manchester City.