Wright's Arsenal move was wrong, says Burley

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The Independent Football

Richard Wright is still to play a competitive match for Arsenal but that did not stop one of his mentors suggesting yesterday that he made a big mistake in joining the London club.

Since it was George Burley, the manager of Ipswich Town, the club he has just left, who said both his development as a goalkeeper and his international ambitions could be harmed by the move, it might be interpreted as sour grapes.

However, such is the paternalist mood at Portman Road, Burley's comments reflected genuine concern rather than the bitterness of rejection.

"I felt he should have stayed for at least one more season," said Burley. "He was going to be playing in Europe, he was the automatic first-team choice and he was in the England squad. But he felt Arsenal was too good an offer to turn down.

"Yet at the moment it looks as if Richard will be on the bench [behind David Seaman] at Arsenal. He is still developing and if he is not playing first-team football it will interfere with his England ambitions and his development as a player."

Burley, who trusted Wright with the keeper's jersey when he was just 17, added: "He was a great club servant and we wish him the best. Hopefully he can get in the first team at Arsenal and win 50 caps for England – but I still feel it was a bit of a gamble for him."

Ipswich were forced to sell Wright because he would only sign an extension to his contract if they agreed to let him join any club for the £6m fee Arsenal subsequently proferred.

Burley, who also lost Jamie Scowcroft, another local lad, to Leicester for £3.5m, added: "They are grown men who have to make their own decisions. Only time will tell if Richard has been impetuous."

The Suffolk club replaced Wright with Andy Marshall on a free tranfer from Norwich, but the former Under-21 keeper has a back injury and will be absent when the club travel to Dublin today for the final part of Town's pre-season build-up.

Also missing will be Finidi George, the Nigerian winger Ipswich hope to sign from Real Mallorca for £3.5m, having completed his medical and agreed personal terms. Burley is hopeful George's work permit will be granted before their Premiership season opener at Sunderland on Saturday week.

"I have to keep improving the team," said Burley. "Every other team in the Premiership will be doing the same. This season is going to be a big test but we are looking forward to it."

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