Ian Wright joins Match of the Day: Former Arsenal striker returns to replace Phil Neville despite walking out on BBC seven years ago

Wright blasted the show for treating him like a 'comedy jester'

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The Independent Football

Arsenal legend Ian Wright is to return to Match of the Day seven years after walking out on the BBC's flagship football show.

Wright will replace Phil Neville after the former Manchester United and Everton player joined Valencia as an assistant manager.

The 51-year-old had been working for ITV and BT Sport since 2008 - as well as in small stints for the BBC - after quitting Match of the Day as he felt he was being treated as a 'figure of fun'.

A BBC source told The Sun that they had "loved him from afar ever since he left the show seven years ago. Unfortunately, he felt he was being used as a figure of fun, although that was certainly never our intention.

"Since then he has done a variety of projects but we always loved him from afar and that was proven when he was given the 606 job a couple of years back.

"We all feel he has done a great job there, as well as on ITV, and we love his passion, humour and forthright opinions.

"So both ourselves and Ian felt the time was right to bring him back to MOTD. All parties are delighted."

Neville, who faced severe criticism as times last season, was a regular on the show after first appearing as part of the World Cup 2014 team; his return to coaching left the Saturday show light of a regular pundit.

Speaking after he quit the show in 2008, Wright said: "I feel like I am just there as a comedy jester to break the ice with Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen, who just do run-of-the-mill things. I can't do that any more. People want something different,' said Wright at the time."