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Ian Wright

Category: Male Player
Year Inducted: 2005

Profile by Robert Galvin, the author of Football's Greatest Heroes, the official book of the National Football Museum Hall of Fame:

Ian Wright became an instant idol at Highbury on the strength of his showmanship, competitive spark and finishing ability. A hat-trick on his League debut was a portentous start: six years later Arsenal had a new record goalscorer.

‘Ian had all the qualities you want from a striker: lightning pace, sharp reflexes, courage, and an eye for goal,' George Graham, the Arsenal manager, said.

Graham considered Wright indispensable to the team that reached four major Cup finals in three seasons. ‘No successful Arsenal side had ever been so dependent on one man,' he wrote. In a last hurrah at Highbury, in the early years of the Arsene Wenger era, Wright helped the club win the Premiership title in 1997-98.

‘He was one of the top-dozen strikers I've ever seen', Graham wrote, describing him as an instinctive finisher in the mould of Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law. ‘Just like them, he's a natural.'

Wright had something else in common with Law: a fiery temperament that fuelled his competitive zeal – and occasionally boiled over. Arsenal fans loved him for that, too.

Following his £2.5 million transfer from Crystal Palace in 1991 Wright finished the season as the leading goalscorer in Division One, with a total of 29 goals. Two years later he scored in 12 consecutive games, an Arsenal record, between September 15 and November 23, 1994.

Wright played in two FA Cup Finals, both of which went to a replay, scoring four times. His two goals for Crystal Palace against Manchester United in 1990 took the game to a replay, which Palace lost. He also netted in both games as Arsenal defeated Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.

In European competition, Wright experienced mixed fortunes. In 1993-94, he missed Arsenal's victory over Parma in the final of the European Cup-winners' Cup because of suspension. The following season he scored in every round of the competition up to the final, only for Arsenal to lose against Real Zaragoza.

Wright was already 21 years of age before he made his breakthrough into full-time professional football. He would make up for lost time in spectacular fashion.

Wright had been working as a plasterer when Crystal Palace invited him for a two-week trial in 1985. After three days Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, offered him a three-month contract on £100 a week.

‘On his first day at Selhurst Park, Ian told me that he wanted to play for England, which was quite a bold statement for someone who had just walked in off a building site,' Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, recalled.

Less than five years later Wright fulfilled his ambition, winning the first of his 27 caps for England, scoring seven goals. In his six seasons at Palace, Wright scored 90 League goals in 225 appearances, helping the club to promotion from the Second Division in 1988-89.

n his first 79 games for Arsenal, Wright scored 56 goals. Within two years of his arrival, he became the quickest player to register 100 goals for the Gunners, beating the record set by Ted Drake six decades earlier. In total, he scored a club-record 185 goals for Arsenal, before moving on to West Ham United.