A a powderpuff, toothless, guile-free, limp Arsenal lose 3-0 to Manchester City in the League Cup final, minds turn to how it used to be when players actually ran and looked like they were living the dream. You know, when Ian Wright played for the Gunners.
Wright is the player who grow up on Honor Oak council estate in Brockley, south London, whose mother told him “I should have had a termination”; who left school at 14; who at age 18, whilst working as a labourer, became a father; who after countless rejections became at 22-years-old a professional footballer with Crystal Palace; who ran and ran and ran and ran.
“I spoke with Arsène for a few hours during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” says the former Arsenal star. “He is such a fascinating man to talk to. During our conversation he said he accepts whatever criticism I make comes from a place of love. Watching him now is like witnessing the ageing Muhammad Ali against Larry Holmes, or watching Brazil’s Ronaldo when he got fat. You are watching the greats in their demise. The problem with Arsène is that there is no one in his corner prepared to throw in the towel.”
Arsene Wenger’s time was up years ago. A combination of loyalty to the man who moulded the club in the modern era, and an asinine board and absentee owner grown fat and complacent on big dividends from the club’s role as perennial Champions’ League also rans, have kept Wenger in situ. His current team are woeful.
Do any of them want it as much as Wright did? Talking to the Sunday Times, he tells a story, which is undoubtedly the most entertaining thing Arsenal fans will have seen today:
“First time I got called up for England. I am amongst the greats. Bryan Robson, Shilton, Butcher, Barnes, Lineker, Beardsley, Gascoigne, Platt. But I’m losing the ball in training and Steve McMahon’s giving me a hard time.
“’F*****g useless, how do players like you get into the squad?’” Horrible he was, and it got me down. Years later he [McMahon] is playing for Man City and we both slide into a tackle. He had to go off. It’s at Highbury and after the game he’s in the doctor’s room being stitched up. It’s his foreskin that is being stitched.
“He says ‘Wrighty, you caught me in the wrong place,’ but is OK about it. I apologise and wish him well for the rest of the season. After we retire I meet him somewhere and he’s saying that every time he pees or has any form of arousal, he feels a little pain and thinks of me. And I’m thinking, ‘ah man, that’s sweet.’”
If you’ve got the time, this is great: Ian Wright meets Mr Sidney Pigden, his old teacher who made him believe he could do it: