Football: Wright in clear over rumpus

The cloud hanging over Ian Wright was lifted yesterday when the England and Arsenal striker, who has a poor disciplinary record, escaped punishment for an incident at Leicester Nick Duxbury reports.
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The Independent Online
It was a good day for the so-called bad guys yesterday as Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and Steve Walsh, convinced the Football Association that their confrontation at Filbert Street three weeks ago was nothing more than a little argy-bargy.

Had the FA's disciplinary commission not been persuaded, Wright's long history of misbehaviour could have meant Arsenal losing his services for 12 matches.

Wright, his team-mate Vieira, and Walsh, the Leicester City captain, had been reported by the referee, Graham Barber, for "adopting aggressive attitudes". The altercation occurred after the final whistle in a Premiership game that had run six minutes over time during which three goals were scored. It ended 3-3, with the rumpus overshadowing an exquisite hat-trick by the Gunners' Dennis Bergkamp.

The scenes in which Wright and Walsh squared up to each other were studied by the disciplinary commission for three hours before it decided that, as there were no fisticuffs, a ticking off for the players and a warning to behave themselves would suffice.

Wright, who had upped his standing in the public eye last week (scoring twice for England against Moldova and breaking Cliff Bastin's Arsenal scoring record), still had every reason to be anxious. In July, he was fined pounds 15,000 for two after-match offences and told that he could expect no sympathy if he appeared before the FA again in "proven and similar circumstances".

Wright, however, "always knew I had not done anything." and blamed "mass hysteria in the media" for exaggerating the incident. The poacher then praised the gamekeepers. "This just shows that you can still get a fair hearing from the FA even when they are under that kind of pressure."

Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, stood by his view that it had been a "storm in a tea cup", but the lesson for players was "to get off the field after a match as soon as possible".

Wright, who had been substituted, ran back on to the pitch on the instructions of his manager, Arsene Wenger, who had told him to go and applaud the Arsenal supporters.

"The FA recognises that nothing very serious went on," Wenger said. "All we have lost is a bit of time coming here."

Not quite. Pat Rice, Arsenal's assistant manager, lost pounds 500 in fines for making unseemly comments in the referee's dressing-room after being invited there to hear that the players were being reported.