Part dad, part footballer, and part boy from south London born to Jamaican parents, Herbert and Nesta. I’m proud of being those things, but it’s been hard to make them all sit nicely together. Maybe finally feeling like I’ve struck the right balance is why I’m often bouncing around with a silly grin on my face these days.
I was an angry young man. I didn’t have the best male role models early on, so like a lot of kids in south London I played football every chance I got. And eventually some gritty Sunday League appearances led me to trials at a couple of well-known English football clubs; all of them unsuccessful. Until Crystal Palace signed me when I was nearly 22 and when I’d already decided to quit football. That’s old in football years, and it nearly never came.
Thank the big man above that Crystal Palace saw something in me. Because to do that trial, I had to take two weeks off my well-paid job that was supporting my young family. If it hadn’t paid off and Crystal Palace hadn’t signed me, I’d have been in trouble. Because a 19-year-old boy with a criminal record and two young sons wasn’t exactly what employers were looking for. I’m Ian Wright MBE now, I’m in the English Football Hall of Fame, and I’ve got a lot of footballing achievements that I’m not afraid to show off. Life’s a funny thing.