Book of the week: Striker fired by fierce sense of persecution
Monday 17 March 1997
by Ian Wright
(Harper Collins, pounds 14.99)
Whatever it was that Peter Schmeichel did or did not say to Ian Wright at Old Trafford, the Arsenal striker makes it abundantly clear in his autobiography that when it comes to verbal abuse he is in the international class himself.
"I'll try to wind myself up, to get myself going," he writes. "But even then I'll go too far."
By way of example, Wright cites a game against Hartlepool a few years ago, when he was involved in a running war of words with his marker. It culminated in Wright turning on his man and saying, "Piss off, I don't talk to Third Division players."
In relaying this incident Wright displays the same ambivalent candour that characterises the book. Much is recalled that is unflattering to its subject, and by the standards of ghosted football autobiography there is an above average dose of self-criticism. Yet the overriding theme is one of justification. "Sometimes I just can't help myself," he says to conclude the Third Division player episode. "I just hope people don't always think too badly of me."
From it Wright emerges as likeable, loyal and honest, if blessed with a somewhat egocentric view of right and wrong. He has been in trouble ever since he played for Gordon Brock Junior School as an eight-year-old, and has used a continuing, jaunty sense of persecution as his motivating force ever since.
Few subjects are ducked, certainly not the five days he spent in prison in his teens, the tangled private life (though this book was written before his latest encounter with the tabloids), or the bust-ups with Bruce Rioch last season.
George Graham emerges as a mentor and valued friend, with Wright reluctant to judge his former boss. How many of us would turn down 200 grand in pounds 50 notes, Wright asks, before typically declaring his admiration for those who would.
Perhaps most revealing is the description of Wright's early days at Crystal Palace, when he, Andy Gray and Tony Finnigan were trying to break into a first team peopled by seasoned pros like Jim Cannon and George Wood. Wright paints a vivid picture of a club divided down the middle, ostensibly by age but also by race - most of the aspiring youngsters were black. "Cannon opened my eyes to the fact that, even within a team, the only time you're truly together is on a Saturday for 90 minutes."
The chapter on racism suggests though progress has been made, abuse is far from a thing of the past. Wright confesses to racism himself, by once regarding Viv Anderson as a "coconut" - brown on the outside, white on the inside - because he did not appear to do enough to champion the cause of black players. The two have long since been reconciled and are friends. It would be nice if the same can one day be said of Wright and Schmeichel.
Latest in Sport
England vs Lithuania: Roy Hodgson set to resist calls to start with Spurs striker Harry Kane
Paul Scholes: Frustrated Steven Gerrard should have started crucial game between Liverpool and Manchester United
Paul Scholes: It's amazing Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has so few caps for England
New kits for 2015/16: Have the Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona strips been leaked?
England vs Lithuania: Theo Walcott 'at risk of being left behind' in Three Lions pecking order
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First
£11 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Small friendly Ford dealership based i...
£18300 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The flat management structure a...
£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The flat management structure a...