Arsenal Best Attackers Ever: No2 – Our Top Scorer Six Seasons in a Row

Arsenal’s Century Club – Ian Wright – Wright – Wright

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Ian Edward Wright, MBE (born 3 November 1963) was born in Woolwich, London.

Wright’s father absconded and left his mother Nesta to raise her family in a one-bedroom house in Brockley, South London. Ian said “That house wasn’t a good place for me, which is probably why I would stay outside kicking a tennis ball against a brick wall for hours on end,” He was bullied by an older step-brother, but it was his step-father’s cruelty which caused him most pain. “One of the few things my brother and I looked forward to in the house was Match of the Day, and my step dad used to take that away from us – just because he could.”

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Wright’s primary school teacher Sydney Pigden taught him to read and write and made him the register and milk monitor. Tony Davis and Harold Palmer, who ran a local football team Ten-Em-Bee used pick him up at his house and drive him directly to training in an effort to keep him focused and out of trouble with the police. However in 1982, at 19 years old, he ended up in Chelmsford Prison for two weeks for non-payment of driving fines.

Despite having had trials at Southend United and Brighton during his teens, he was unable to attract sufficient interest to win a professional contract offer. Reverting to playing for amateur and non-league teams, he was left disillusioned about his chances of a career as a professional footballer.

But he eventually overcame his deprived childhood, his abusive step-father and a spell in prison to become a professional footballer relatively late in life. A Crystal Palace talent scout, Peter Prentice, happened to see Wright playing for Dulwich Hamlet and invited him to have a trial at Selhurst Park. “It was only a three-month trial but I’d done it: I was able to call myself a professional footballer,” Wright said. “After nearly 11 years of rejection, bullying, prison and all sorts of nonsense, and I had finally gotten my dream.”

Having impressed then-manager Steve Coppell, he signed professional terms for Crystal Palace in August 1985, just three months short of his 22nd birthday. He quickly made his mark in his first season, scoring nine goals to finish as Palace’s second-highest scorer. When Mark Bright arrived on the Palace scene the following year the duo soon established a successful striking partnership and it was largely their goals which took the club to top flight via the playoffs in 1989. Ian was particularly instrumental that season, scoring 24 goals in the Second Division and a grand total of 33 in all competitions.

An ankle injury reduced his initial impact in the First Division. However, after recovering from the injury he made a dramatic appearance as a ‘super-sub’, in the 1990 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. He equalised for Palace a few minutes after coming onto the field forcing extra time, then putting them ahead in extra time. The eventual score was 3–3, but Palace lost the replay 1–0.

With attention-grabbing goals in the league and in the 3-3 FA Cup Final draw against Manchester United in 1990, it was little surprise when Wright gained the attention of bigger clubs. Arsenal paid a club record £2.5 million for the striker in 1991. At the time Arsenal were reigning champions and there were question marks over the necessity of the signing: Alan Smith, Kevin Campbell, Paul Merson and Anders Limpar were already among the clubs’ ranks

He scored on his debut against Leicester City in a League Cup tie, and then scored a hat-trick on his League debut against Southampton. He won the Golden Boot in his first season by scoring 29 league goals, five of which were for Palace, and 31 in all competitions. He scored a hat-trick in the final game of the season against Southampton; his third goal being the last ever scored in the old First Division.

 He went on to be Arsenal’s top scorer for six seasons in a row. He played a major part in the club’s success during the 1990s, winning an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993; he scored in both the FA Cup Final and the replay against Sheffield Wednesday. Ian also helped Arsenal reach the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final, although he was suspended for the final in which Arsenal beat Parma 1–0.

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The period that followed proved to be a difficult time for both Ian and Arsenal, manager George Graham was dismissed over illegal payments, and under caretaker Stewart Houston they could only manage a 12th place finish in the league. The arrival of Bruce Rioch heralded a bleaker time; the two did not get on and eventually Wright handed in a transfer request, which he later retracted. The arrival of Dennis Bergkamp heralded a brief but fruitful striking partnership, and in their first season playing together they helped Arsenal finish fifth in the league and qualify for the UEFA Cup. They also reached the Coca-Cola Cup semi-finals, where they went out on away goals to eventual winners Aston Villa.

By the time Arsène Wenger had arrived at Arsenal in September 1996, Ian was nearly 33. Despite his age, he continued to score regularly (being the second highest Premier League scorer in 1996–97 with 23 goals), and on 13 September 1997 he broke Cliff Bastin’s Arsenal goal scoring record with a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers. His final goal at Highbury came on 4 October 1997 against Barnsley and was his 300th career goal for both Crystal Palace and Arsenal. He scored his final goal for Arsenal on 6 January 1998 in a League Cup quarter-final victory against West Ham United.

While he was still a professional footballer at Arsenal, he published his autobiography, Mr Wright. In 1993, he wrote and released a single called “Do The Right Thing”. The song was co-written and produced by Chris Lowe (of Pet Shop Boys) and reached #43 the UK Singles Chart.

In total he registered 185 goals for Arsenal; a record that has since been passed only by fellow Hall of Fame and Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. On 15 July 2008, he finished 4th in ‘50 Greatest Gunners’ listed on the Arsenal website.

Wright went on to play for West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Celtic and finally Burnley (helping them to win promotion) before his retirement in 2000. Since retirement Wright has made a career in punditry and television work.

Clubs: Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Burnley
Caps: 33, 9 goals
Honours: 1 Premier League, 2 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 Cup Winners’ Cup

Shortly after his retirement from playing in 2000, Ian was awarded the MBE for his services to football.

Arsenal’s Century Club
# Player Years Games ** Goals GPG
2 Ian Wright 1991-98 288 143 185 0.64
3 Jimmy Brain 1923-31 232 144 140 0.60
4 Jack Lambert 1923-33 161 149 109 0.68
5 Reg Lewis 1935-53 176 152 118 0.67
6 Joe Baker 1962-66 156 152 100 0.64
7 David Jack 1928-34 208 156 124 0.60
8 Doug Lishman 1948-56 244 163 137 0.56
9 David Herd 1954-61 180 165 107 0.59
10 Cliff Bastin 1929-46 396 174 178 0.45
11 Thierry Henry 1999-07 377 181 226 0.60
12 Olivier Giroud 2012-18 253 237 105 0.42
13 RVP 2004-12 278 238 132 0.47
14 Alan Smith 1987-95 347 251 115 0.33
15 Frank Stapleton 1972-81 300 276 108 0.36
16 Denis Bergkamp 1995-06 423 296 120 0.28
17 John Radford 1962-76 481 306 149 0.31
18 Joe Hulme 1926-38 374 307 125 0.33
19 Theo Walcott 2005-18 397 370 108 0.27
** Games played to reach 100 goals.

Ian scored his 100th goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace at Highbury on October 1st, 1994.




26 thoughts on “Arsenal Best Attackers Ever: No2 – Our Top Scorer Six Seasons in a Row

  • That is a brilliant celebration-in-writing of one of our best and most beloved Gunners, GN5. Top stuff. A great guy who stills bleeds Arsenal. More from me tomorrow.

  • Thanks for the post GunnerN5, Ian Wright is a very interesting subject, I mean did the philosophy of the club change when he arrived?

    In 1990/91 the ‘Almost Invincible’s’ stormed to the League Championship with a record defensive campaign of only 18 goals conceded and an attack that took on and beat all comers scoring 74 goals.

    Alan Smith led the line with 22 goals, Paul Merson with 13 goals and the mercurial Anders Limpar contributing 11 goals whilst a youthful Kevin Campbell chipped in with 9 goals.

    So casting my mind back to where we were and what I was thinking about Arsenal in 1991 and I really don’t think that it included a striker, that’s for sure. In fact I’ll always remember my reaction when I read about the deal in the newspapers because I said ‘What do we want him for?’

    Now I’m not blaming Ian, I love the guy, but just glance forward a few seasons to 1993/94 and Alan Smith scored only 3 goals in 25 games, Paul Merson got 7 goals in 33 games, Anders Limpar didn’t score in any of his 10 appearances, but Kevin Campbell did hit 14 goals in 37 matches.

    Ian Wright scored an impressive 23 goals in 39 games, but a title winning attack from only a few years earlier that had seen all the forwards contributing goals now seemed to funnel everything through Wrighty.

    During the same period Arsenal won the Cup Winners Cup, the FA Cup and the League Cup.
    So plenty of success in the knockout competitions but in the league, our bread n butter, the record was 1991/2; 4th, 1992/3; 10th, 1993/4; 4th…

    Now ultimately you have to look at the manager and his coaches and there’s no doubt in my mind that George Graham changed our style post and during 91/92, in fact I think that the 1-3 home defeat in the European Cup to Benfica had a massive effect of George. He was a man well aware of the clubs history and maybe he saw himself, in his minds eye, as the first manager to bring home the trophy with the ‘big ears’ to Highbury?

    From then on Arsenal became a team for the cups and things didn’t really revert until Bergkamp and then Wenger arrived, that’s when Arsenal became a title chasing team again. So I’m not blaming Ian because he was fantastic for us but I believe that his style changed Arsenal from being a championship team into a cup team.

  • That Kev is one of your best comment ever imho. It is worthy of being a post by itself. The ideal is for goals to get scored by a number of players so the opposition doesn’t know where to look/ who to focus on. As soon as a team starts to funnel the ball through to one very deadly attacker it becomes one-dimensional. That attacker might still score two goals in every three games or so… but if the others hardly add to this then sooner or later games will be lost.

    You have made a strong call for making us look at IWWW role and contributions in that way. I sometimes feel we are suffering from the same problem currently with Aubameyang.

  • Morning guy’s,

    Some of the best goals I saw at Highbury were when Bergkamp and Wright played together, they had an innate ability to find each other. His rags to riches story always intrigues me, here”s a wonderful video of him being surprised at Highbury.

  • Thanks Total, if I’m completely honest my Father used to say that to me back in the 1990’s, he was a massive fan of Alan Smith a player he used to call ‘brains’ because of his football intelligence. We all used to moan about the quality of the football post 1991/92, it was quite attritional fayre at the time and Alan Smith’s role also evolved in this period from being a regular goal scorer into being solely a provider.

    Again, I don’t blame Ian Wright I blame the tactics George Graham employed.
    I have the greatest of regard for Ian Wright, I loved his determination his will to win, but it’s just a theory that we had at the time.

    Paul Davis was also a big big favourite of mine, but George didn’t really use him as much as he should at the time except in european games where more technique and football intelligence was required, we have to remember that at the time English football had fallen behind because of our european ban, so domestic football was a very different animal to what we see today.

    Total your more than welcome to use anything I write mate, you can embellish it with your own musings to improve it.

  • GN5 no proper Arsenal fan can ever fail not to be moved by that vid, I’ve watched many many times and still shed a tear.

    One of my biggest regrets was when Ian got the hump towards the end of 1997/98, well that how it seemed to me. Wenger put Chris Wreh on instead of Ian at Wembley, which while I understand why because of his goal in the semi final and his goal at Bolton, but I still think it was a mistake.
    Wrighty had contributed massively in the first half of the season towards us winning the title and in my view should have come on.

    To me it sent the wrong message imo and Ian left for West Ham that summer.

    Wenger should have done more to keep him as both Bergkamp and Anelka missed games in 1998/99 and Wreh didn’t have the competency to take up the slack. Meanwhile Wrighty was wasting his time at Upton Park instead of playing in the Champions League.

  • And yes Total, I agree completely, Arsenal are at their best when they spread the goals around, in fact that is almost certainly the case with all of Arsenal’s past championship teams.

    It’s something Man City do and Liverpool and something I imagine Arteta will work towards.

  • Let’s hope Arteta is working towards that, Kev, and we will know more after the next two months or so. 72 hours till kick-off now COYRRGs!

  • Kev, there has to be nothing but respect for IWWWright. The man got his 100 goals second fastest of thousands of Arsenal players. He was deadly and played with so much heart and passion. Like you say it is the manager who should be blamed for underutilising his other talented attackers! 😦

  • Great video, GN5. I knew the story but had not seen the video. It just shows how important it is to guide adolescents through life by giving them truth, warmth and guidance.

  • Hey guys come out and play again. From Singapore to Texas and Nigeria to Hungary, and from New York to Western France… let’s be having your comments again here on BK! 🙂

  • Well, albeit GN5’s signature brilliant post I wanted to sit this one out, but since TA had me engaged here I my heretic thoughts on Ian Wright.

    First, I wasn’t born to an Arsenal-supporting family. I had to ‘get my priorities straight’, and b the time I realized that Arsenal is my team, Wright was playing there his final couple of years. Anyway I followed him and was happy when he and the club was happy. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his loyal years as well as his prolific goal scoring statistics as anybody. Furthermore I admire the elegance and cheekiness he had which wasn’t always a trademark Arsenal scoring feature.

    The problems started to emerge when he decided to become a pundit. Well, I have a general dislike towards punditry. I admit the fact that Hungarian pundits are former players that weren’t especially great in their prime and they couldn’t say anything wise in the studio must have had something to do with it, but to be honest, English pundits are not significantly better either. The concept is not flawed though, it could be value added to share insights or context that for a regular viewer would be hard to find, but unfortunately it is hardly the case. They mostly share unrelated stories of their professional life, clichés, or biased estimates. They rarely admit being wrong, and often mean to the players on the pitch and/or playing for their club.
    So I have overall antipathy on punditry, and taking maybe the sole exception Gary Neville we have the selection from horrible to poor. And Ian Wright is no exception. While he has a likable personality and overall cheerful presence on camera he is just as unsophisticated in the studio or in his tweets and interviews as everybody else. I’m not saying that when Wright saying that
    – Saka’s best position is at left wing
    – you cannot blame a player for wanting to leave club to win silverware
    – Kepa could have played (in a game where he wasn’t selected)
    he was stupid or wrong, but there is literally 0 value in these comments. They are obvious to all, and often trying to be wise in hindsight. On the other hand he was often mean or abusive to Mustafi, Ozil, Xhaka, which – in my opinion – is something a club legend should never be.

    I don’t agree that sharing clichés, simple jokes, and stating the obvious could be accepted from the view that ‘this is their job now, they still have to make a living somehow’. I think one of the many factor for top players earning 50-200 times as much as a regular mortals like us is that they have only about a decade to make that unfathomable money, so they should save and/or invest it for their years not playing professional football. These pundits enjoy being celebrities (being in the spotlight without delivering performance).
    And I don’t mind Wright (or Dixon, Merson) ‘ending up’ this way – but Tony Adams is way to stupid for my liking – I just wish I had nothing but respect for IWWWright…

    p.s.: It is not impossible to be respectful, decent, yet interesting and insightful. I really like the interviews with Mertesacker, Ljungberg and – of course – Wenger. But neither of them are pundits by trade.

  • Cheers Pb, I think a lot of fans relate to IWWWright more than you do. Punditry is not easy and I also sometimes cringe when Ian makes an obvious or biased statement, but the combination of an journalist football-expert with a former football player is in itself not a bad one; and Ian is much better than many other ex-football pundits imho. I am not sure whether there is a better alternative?

  • Arsenal Schedule -2019-2020

    Man City – A – June 17th- EPL
    Brighton – A – June 20th- EPL
    Southampton -A – June 25th- EPL
    Sheffield U A – June 28th- E Cup
    Norwich – H – July 1st – EPL
    Wolves – A – July 4th – EPL
    Leicester – H – July 8th – EPL
    Tottenham- A – July 11th – EPL
    Liverpool – H – July 15th – EPL
    Aston Villa- A – July 18th – EPL
    Watford – H – July 26th – EPL

  • Thanks PB,

    I generally agree with you about pundits – but that’s not the case with Ian Wright W.W. as I think he brings a necessary light edge with his views and refuses to be bullied by fellow pundits.

    My biggest dislike is with biased commentators – most of the time I watch games in silence as I cannot stand to listen to their BS, most of my anger is directed towards commentators on Man U games – they seem to have swallowed the Man U Bible and ignore the opposition – what ever happened to neutral commentary?,

  • Do we actually need commentators? We certainly don’t need some dork giving us ‘analysis’…

    Tony Gale was a pet hate of mine and apparently Steve McManaman is a nightmare on wherever Channel he operates from, BEin sport or BT Sport, I’m not sure?

    The old fashioned British commentators like Dan Maskell in tennis, Peter Jones in football and John Arlott in cricket, didn’t need to let their mouths run away with them when they were working, which actually showed a respect to their audience, because we don’t really need to be told the bloody obvious incessantly…

  • I think that a few years back, the BBC experimented with that GN5, you could press the red button and it would give you three options, the TV commentary, the commentary from the radio usually BBC5Live or just the crowd noise, it was brilliant but didn’t last, I guess the Association of Sports Commentators (?) objected because they could see their nice jobs disappearing and so we reverted to the status quo and we are stuck with the endless hyperbole we currently have.

    There’s never been an experiment along the BBC lines from Sky or BT as far as I know, jobs for the boys and all that old nonsense I suppose…

    It’s a shame as it was great just watching the game and chatting with whoever you was with at the time and discussing the game without some biased motormouth going off alarming in the background…

  • allezkev, fortunately we have the mute button – and I use it a lot. I even tried watching the game and listening to the commentary – but they were never in sync and that drove me batty.

  • I hope for the sake of BK that we get some bloggers back to join in the conversation, this is too good a site to have so few people contributing.

  • Great post Gn5.

    Was busy lately so been trying to catch up with 2 posts here.

    Anyway, IWWW’s stats are the most staggering: 143 games, 100 goals. 1.43 games per goal. That in itself is the best so far, but we have one in the wings that is even better.

    Most players have humble roots, or a deprived childhood, and that spurred them on to make it in life.

    Wrighty’s successes came from humility. He was as humble as can be. His partnership on the field with Alan Smith was not a brilliant one, but they combined for many goals. The current generation knows that hard work pays off, but continuing to be humble is the challenge that makes or breaks a career.

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