Can words do justice?
When a search for fitting superlatives leaves you exhausted, does that mean that a tribute would be a bad idea?
In terms of an Arsenal figurative Hall of Fame, any who deservedly roam this imaginary building – bedecked with marble of course – can transform a blogger into a gibbering wreck. How on earth can you surmise a player’s career when it affected so many people’s lives in a positive way?
Any attempt would be foolish – but isn’t it important to remind ourselves (even if it doesn’t do them justice) how good they really were?
Some names instantly conjure up memories. Such was their impact, a mere mention of their moniker and fans begin to wax lyrical about a specific moment or goal.
Ian Wright is one of those players.
So good we named him thrice, Wrighty joined Arsenal after forming a destructive partnership with Mark Bright at Crystal Palace. The Eagles were not expected to pull up any trees, but their attacking might – aided by Geoff Thomas in midfield – ripped up the rulebook and made clubs take notice.
Luckily enough, Arsenal was to be Wrighty’s destination – and he started how he finished as a Gunner.
With a goal.
The occasion was pretty low-profile; a 2nd round Rumbelows Cup game against Leicester City. Wrighty wasn’t even expected to start the game, but Alan Smith’s ankle didn’t pass a fitness test. Our new striker had only signed that very week and he was instantly thrust into the eleven.
No pressure then. Well, it never showed on our star striker anyway. He grabbed the goal that gave us the initiative for the second leg and Graham cooed about his latest acquisition in the papers. The Scot mentioned Wrighty’s pace and his ability to make something from nothing. These talents were always on display in our red and white, and they made him a nightmare to defend against.
Wrighty has spoke about his energy levels as a youth and how they never really dipped as he got older. It meant that not only was he a delight to interview – as well as magnificently candid – but it required opposing defenders to maintain their concentration for the whole of the ninety minutes.
One slip, one lackadaisical jog back to hold the line?
Wrighty will get you.
His pace has been mentioned, but the reason that Wrighty was able to ensure his name amongst the pantheon of greats not only at Arsenal, but of the Premier League, was because his talents were the perfect storm.
His energy levels, his pace. They meant that defenders had to keep an eye on him constantly. But his positioning was chief among reasons why he was always in place to capitalise on a sublime pass or a fault by an opposing man.
Once he got these opportunities though, he still had to finish.
Wrighty has spoken about his inherent ability to put one in the onion bag. I distinctly remember a comment about his finishing, where he declared that the secret was to shoot when the keeper isn’t expecting it. He regularly fired a shot towards goal far earlier than convention would dictate. Most would carry nearer to the goal, but Wrighty’s belief in his talents meant he would try his luck quickly.
It’s fair to say it worked.
He was much more than a predator though. His finishing deserves its place among the best, but in his own personal highlight reel we can see that he is no one-trick pony. If variety is the spice of life, then Wrighty’s collection of goals is like Scotch Bonnet chili.
Chips? He had more than a Glaswegian street on a Saturday night. Outside of the box? So many efforts filled with venom ripped into the net from distance. Then there were the little indicators that genius was at work. The improvisations, the flicks that left a defender looking around for the ball and the player.
Wrighty’s career is impossible to really visualise into words. His relationship with Gooners is infatuation on both sides and if the next statue outside The Emirates was of Wrighty, arms aloft with his trademark grin, would anyone object?
Not a chance. My words might not do him justice, but his legacy will live on through us and the club.
Thank you Wrighty.