Arsenal legend, former England striker and television pundit extraordinaire, Ian Wright is one of the most fascinating and important figures in modern football.
With 33 England caps, 185 goals for Arsenal and 117 goals for Crystal Palace, Ian is one of the UK’s all time leading goal scorers. He’s lifted the Premier League title, The FA Cup, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and won the Premier League golden boot.
Ian’s journey from a South London council estate to national treasure is everyone's dream. From Sunday morning football directly to Crystal Palace; from 'boring, boring Arsenal' to inside the Wenger Revolution; from Saturday afternoons on the pitch to Saturday evenings on prime time television; from a week in prison to inspiring youth offenders; from punditry and back again, Ian’s life and career are nothing if not extraordinary.
The youngest of three children, Ian Wright was born in Woolwich, London, to Jamaican immigrant parents and was raised by his mother, Nesta, and an abusive stepfather. He went through a bad childhood and according to Ian, had been “very angry” for most of his childhood.
Ian was an avid footballer but was unable to make his place in any football club. He once ended up being incarcerated for two weeks in Chelmsford Prison due to his inability to pay the fine for driving without tax or insurance. While in prison, Ian decided that he would turn his life around.
He recalls that after being locked in the cell, he burst into tears and vowed to God to do everything in his power to make it as a footballer. And so, in 1985, he was signed by a semi-professional club named Greenwich Borough.
His hard work ethic combined with a natural talent paid off and, in 1985, he was hired by Crystal Palace football club where he established a deadly striking partnership with new arrival Mark Bright in the 1989 season, scoring 27 League goals - a Palace record in the higher divisions.
Ian made a memorable substitute's appearance in the 1990 FA Cup final against Manchester United. He equalised minutes after coming on to the field and then putting Palace ahead in extra-time.
In 1991, Ian got a big breakthrough when he received an offer from Arsenal, then, and now, of the biggest English clubs, at a cost of £2.5m; then club record.
Club honours at Highbury included winners' medals in the League and FA Cups in 1993 and a European Cup Winners' Cup runners-up medal in 1995 before Arsenal secured the Premiership and FA Cup double in 1997/98.
Two seasons later he moved on to play with his son, England U-21 international Shaun Wright-Phillips, for a short spell at Nottingham Forest. From there he moved on to West Ham, Celtic and Burnley before retiring in July 2000 to pursue a broadcasting career.
Since retiring from football, Ian Wright has firmly established himself as one of the most respected and knowledgeable football pundits in the UK. With regular slots on BBC, ITV and Premier League TV, Ian Wright is the ‘footballer’s hero’ and a legend to many.
In 2019, Ian became an ambassador for Barclays Women’s Super League; promoting the game, the grassroots work Barclays is doing.
He joined the BBC in 2001, presenting the hit show Friends Like These, an Ian Wright entertainment show series, as well as Wright And Bright on Radio Five Live.
He was awarded the MBE in 2000 for his footballing achievements, upgraded to OBE in 2023 to recognise his services to football and charity, and remains one of football's most colourful characters.