Ian Wright Biography

Ian Wright, an English former professional footballer and radio/TV personality, has overcome a challenging childhood to become a well-known figure in the world of sports broadcasting. Born in Woolwich, London, to Jamaican immigrant parents, Ian faced adversity growing up, but his passion for football helped him turn his life around. After a stint in prison, he was signed by Greenwich Borough and eventually went on to play for Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham United, and Celtic. Following his retirement from football, Ian transitioned into a successful career as a commentator for BBC Sport and ITV Sport. Recognized for his contributions to the sport, he was awarded an MBE. Today, Ian Wright is a respected and influential radio and TV personality.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In November
  • Also Known As: Ian Edward Wright
  • Age: 60 Years, 60 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Debbie Martin, Nancy Hallam
    • Father: Herbert Maclean
    • Mother: Nesta Wright
    • Children: Bradley Wright-Phillips, Brett Wright, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stacey Wright
  • Born Country: England
  • Football Players
  • Black Sportspersons
  • Height: 5’9″ (175 cm), 5’9″ Males
  • City: London, England
  • Awards: Member of the Order of the British Empire

Childhood & Early Life

Ian Edward Wright was born on November 3, 1963, in Woolwich, London, England, to Nesta Wright and Herbert Maclean, who were immigrants from Jamaica. Ian was the third and the youngest son in the family. He grew up with two elder brothers: Maurice and Nicky. He was raised amidst extreme poverty in south-eastern London’s Woolwich area.

Struggling to provide for three children, his father abandoned the family when Ian was just 18 months old. A few years later, his mother remarried, but Ian’s stepfather did not care about him. Ian has talked about his childhood’s traumatic experiences several times and has also said that he was often severely beaten by his stepfather as a child. Ian further stated that he had been “very angry” throughout his childhood.

However, he found solace in football. He had a natural knack for the game and spent most of his childhood playing football. He was an active and extroverted kid, a quality his stepfather did not like much.

By the time he stepped into his teenage years, he had turned into a bitter young man. A teacher named Sydney Pidgen came into his life and taught him some valuable lessons to move forward in life. He taught Ian how to read and write and gave him ideas to come out of the darkness that he had withdrawn into since his childhood years.

Ian’s love for football rejuvenated, and he decided to become a professional footballer at the age of 14. However, he was rejected by several clubs. Following his high-school graduation, Ian learned plastering and brick layering to make ends meet.

He also married early and suffered from extreme poverty. He was once fined for driving a car without insurance. He was unable to pay the fine and was imprisoned as a result. This experience changed him. While in prison, he decided to change his ways and resolved to become a footballer at any cost.

Football Career

Soon after he was released from prison, he joined a local club named the ‘Sunday League Club,’ where he honed his skills as a footballer. In 1985, he joined ‘Greenwich Borough,’ a semi-professional club. His financial situation improved a bit, and he focused more on polishing his skills. Hard work paid off soon, and he managed to impress a ‘Crystal Palace’ scout. In August 1985, he signed his first professional contract, with ‘Crystal Palace.’

During his first season with the new club, he was the second-highest goal-scorer for his team. He formed a successful partnership with Mark Bright, which was instrumental in the team’s journey to the top in the late 1980s. In the 1989 season, Ian scored 33 goals for the team, with 24 of those goals coming only in the second division.

By the time he ended his run with ‘Crystal Palace’ after the 1990–1991 season, he had become the highest goal-scorer for his team during the post-war era. In the six seasons he played for the team, he scored 117 goals in 253 games. Later, in 2005, he was named the “Player of the Century” by the club.

He received the biggest break of his career in the early 1990s, when he signed a contract with ‘Arsenal,’ one of the leading teams of the ‘English Premier League.’ He was signed for £2.5 million, which was a record contract fee in 1991.

He performed exceptionally well in the first season, scoring 31 goals. He scored a hat-trick in the first game of the league, against Southampton, and another hat-trick in the final game of the season. He had the ability to score goals in the most difficult of situations, and he perfectly justified his high fee.

For his next six seasons with ‘Arsenal,’ he remained the top goal-scorer. In 1993, he played an instrumental role in his team winning both the ‘FA Cup’ and the ‘League Cup.’ In 1994, he helped his team reach the ‘European Cup Winners’ Cup’ final. Though his team won the finals, he was suspended from the game.

In 1996, Arsene Wenger was hired as the new manager. Ian was 33 at that time, older than many players of his team, but he was still scoring goals regularly. Arsene was known for his strict approach toward fitness, but Ian proved that age has nothing to do with fitness. He also played a key role in his team winning the 1998 ‘FA Cup.’

In the 288 games that he played for ‘Arsenal,’ he scored 185 goals. He remains the second top-scorer for ‘Arsenal’ in the history of the team.

In 1998, he joined ‘West Ham United,’ but by then, age had slowed him down a bit. He scored 9 goals in 22 games in a season for ‘West Ham.’ He later played for clubs such as ‘Celtic’ and ‘Burnley,’ before announcing his retirement in 2000.

Television Career

Ian has also played international games as part of the English national team. During his tenure with the team, it had qualified for one ‘World Cup’ and two ‘European Championships.’

In the 2000s, Ian began his TV career, appearing as a presenter on shows such as ‘Friends Like These,’ ‘The National Lottery Wright Ticket,’ ‘What Kids Really Think,’ and ‘I’d Do Anything.’

In 2009, he was hired to present the ‘Channel 5’ show titled ‘Live from Studio Five.’ However, due to some internal issues, his contract was not renewed and he left the show in September 2010.

He has been active on radio, too, and presents and hosts shows on ‘Absolute Radio.’ He also hosts football-special programs for ‘BBC Radio 5.’

He was also hired as a football pundit on the ‘BBC Sports’ show ‘Match of the Day.’ He later joined ‘BT Sport’ as a football analyst. In 2017, he left ‘BT Sport’ after he got busier with ‘Match of the Day.’

Additionally, Ian has also appeared in TV commercials for brands such as ‘Nescafe,’ ‘Chicken Tonight,’ and ‘Ladbrokes.’

Family & Personal Life

In 2016, Ian Wright published his autobiography, ‘A Life in Football.’

Ian Wright has been married to Nancy Hallam since 2011. They have two children together. He admitted in his autobiography that he has had eight children from his four relationships. Two of his sons, Shaun and Bradley Wright, are professional footballers.

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