My celebration of 21 years of Ian Wright as an Arsenal man continues with his goalscoring exploits in his first two matches.First up, his debut for the club in the Rumbelows Cup, as the League Cup was known in those days. After being warned by George Graham when he signed that he might be sitting on the bench for a while, Wrighty made his debut immediately, thanks to Alan Smith failing a fitness test before the match against his old club, Leicester.
Wright scored the first goal of the game before Leicester squared it with a very late equaliser. “It’s been a good start for me,” said Wrighty. “It is the first time I’ve scored on a debut and I feel quite pleased. They [Arsenal] play a bit more across midfield than I’m used to, but it means I get it to my feet directly in front of goal. Hopefully I will blend in well if I can get in the team. I’m here to cause selection problems. Hopefully I will be able to score a few more goals.” Well that turned out okay for him, and us.
George Graham was in effusive mood: “Ian’s pace is frightening. He got a goal out of nothing and you can’t practise those.” Er, yes you can George, and Wrighty spent hour upon hour practising as a boy and then even after he joined Palace, staying behind long after everyone else had gone home from training. He was used to ten or 11 hour days on a building site, not a namby two hours of jogging around Selhurst Park Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The Arsenal programme took until 8 October to catch up with some pictures of this match, all in glorious black and white:Arsenal’s next match was away at Southampton, and Wright retained his place. After an accidental assist for the first goal, scored by David Rocastle after Wright’s shot rebounded from the post, Wrighty then got a hat-trick on his league debut. The programme cover for the following week’s match against Chelsea featured a delighted Wright celebrating in front of the away fans. Meanwhile a young Paul Durkin runs away in the background.
Inside the same programme was a feature with the rather self-conscious looking pairing of Wright and Rocastle (what is that jacket Rocky is wearing? Anyone would be self-conscious in that!), who had known each other since their boyhood days on the same South London estate. To be honest this feature doesn’t tell us a lot, which was often the way with Arsenal programmes 20 years ago! It does point out that Wright knew quite a few of the Arsenal players through Rocastle as well as others from England duty, which may well have been a key factor in getting him to sign for Arsenal. He’s a sociable character, and I don’t imagine he wanted to stray too far from his London roots, so what was the alternative – Tottenham? The pictures from the Southampton match also took a while to come back from the chemists, so it wasn’t till the 8 October programme that we got Wrighty scoring against the Saints.
It’s noticeable how heavily Wright features in the action shots in the programmes. He made an immediate impression with his goals and quickly became a fans’ favourite as well as the programme editor’s.
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