Next week sees the 21st anniversary of Ian Wright signing for Arsenal. This is the rather low-key announcement from the following week’s programme:
Wrighty had already played two away matches by this time, and having scored four goals in the two games, no doubt his confidence was high – somewhat higher than when pictured on the day of his signing. As he has admitted recently, he was sh*tting himself about the challenge of a club as big as Arsenal!
Pal Liderson is mentioned as a footnote in the announcement. He did of course arrive not too long afterwards, but his whole career was rather a footnote, especially when compared to Wright.
Here’s how the Daily Express announced the signing. Clearly it was too sudden for them to get hold of a picture of Wright in an Arsenal shirt, making do with him in his Palace kit.
As usual in these old reports there is all sorts of interesting peripheral detail around the main story. The first thing to note is that Arsenal were of course Champions at the time and hot favourites to win the title again, after only losing one match all the previous season. Secondly George Graham seems a different man at this point from the one I remember for most of his time as Arsenal manager, the man who was always saying, ‘The players I want just aren’t available.’ In this instance he has dug deep into Arsenal’s pockets and paid a record fee to strengthen a title-winning team. Those were the days, eh? Mind you, we didn’t win the title again for another seven years, so I suppose that proves that even big (but wise) spending doesn’t guarantee anything.
There is a mention of Palace chairman Ron Noades and his comments about black players being lazy. Then it’s back to the uncharacteristic George Graham quotes: ‘I want Arsenal to have the very best players in all positions and when good ones come along you try to buy them.’ ‘The fees are not important to me. Getting the best team and the best players is my business.’ Sadly for George it all started to unravel a couple of years later, though there were three cup wins to come first. There were also warnings that Wrighty might have to sit on the bench for a while, or battle it out with Kevin Campbell for a spot in the first team. I don’t recall that battle lasting long.
At this stage – the day of the signing and just after – Wrighty himself was keeping his head down and saying nothing. That would soon change, though!
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