Football: 'The complete captain': Billy Wright - Born 6 February 1924, died 3 September 1994: Geoff Brown reports on the tributes paid yesterday to a giant of football

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The Independent Online
THE news of the death yesterday of Billy Wright, the former England and Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-half and captain, was marked by a minute's silence at the start of all Endsleigh League matches as tributes poured in from former England team-mates. Even younger players felt the loss.

The England coach, Terry Venables, said: 'He was a tremendous role model for younger players. It's a terrible blow. My assistant Don Howe is terribly upset by the news. He used to watch him and played with him for England.

'Walter Winterbottom once invited me and Alan Harris, when we were in the youth team, to the England v Mexico game. We couldn't believe when we were taken to lunch and met Billy. He was terrific, so friendly. We were only about 17 but he was so good to us and made us feel comfortable straight away. He had such a terrific personality that you felt everyone instinctively liked him.'

In an age when boots had toe-caps that the manufacturers of Doc Martens would marvel at and footballs had laces that felt like rock, Wright was a tough man but fair, and, at 5ft 8in, by no means a giant.

'He wasn't a particularly big centre-half,' Venables recalled, 'but he had a terrific spring and could get up above people a foot taller. He was a great player and to become the first to get over 100 England caps speaks for itself.'

Wright's long battle against cancer had been as fierce and tough as any he fought on the field against

centre-forwards from all corners of the world. One who remembered many tussles was the former Bolton Wanderers and England centre-forward Nat Lofthouse. Now Bolton's President, he described Wright as 'the complete captain'.

'He was a great player and a superb motivator, particularly if you were having a rough game,' Lofthouse said. 'He'd be right up behind you, encouraging you and urging you on, always in a constructive way. We all took a lot of notice of him. We also had some good old battles against each other at club level. He was a fierce competitor, but never unfair.

'More than 100 England appearances, 90 as captain, and the fact that he was never booked in his entire career, speaks volumes.'

The former Preston North End and England winger Tom Finney, who played with Wright throughout his international career, said: 'He was a really inspirational player - he led by example. He was a very good tackler and tactician, full of enthusiasm and a really outstanding player and was never affected by the number of caps he had. He was such a likeable fellow. He's a great loss to the game and sport in general.'

Describing Wright as the club's most famous figure, the Wolves chairman, Jonathan Hayward, said: 'We will always remember Billy. He was a tremendous ambassador for the club and for the town. Billy was rightly loved throughout football, and in every boardroom in the country. One of the new stands at Molineux has been named after him and that will be a fitting tribute to his memory.'

Appreciation, main section, page 3

(Photograph omitted)

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