Forgotten Heroes - Mark Wright
Sunday, 13th Feb 2011 21:20 by Forgotten Heroes
Here we look at a player who really would have been remembered with a lot more affection if he hadnt left such a bad taste in the mouth when he left !
Mark Wright joined Saints in March 1982 as part of the deal that took both he and Keith Cassells to the Dell, initially it was seen as Saints buying Cassells to bolster their attack as they pushed to try and win the League having lead for the best part of two months although some of the other clubs had games in hand.
But the 18 year old central defender would play a small part as Saints qualified for Europe, initially making his debut in a 3-1 win at Leeds that all but condemned the Elland Road club to the drop.
However it would be the following season in which he made the headlines both on and off the pitch.
From the start of 82/83 Wright was in the team partnering Chris Nicholl at the back, the future Saints manager would be an ever present in the league, whilst Wright would only miss 3 games, two of them due to an incident in a UEFA Cup game in Sweden, after Saints had gone out on away goals in a 0-0 draw to Norrkoping, Wright and Steve Moran were arrested the following morning after a local girl claimed she had been raped at the teams hotel, meaning the team was forced to go back home without them, they were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing and released, but it was an unwelcome distraction is a season that Saints had started badly.
In 83/84 it would be Saints best ever league season and some would say Saints best, Wright starred in a defence that often featured three central defenders, the third man Reuben Agbolola would play a sweeper role enabling the full backs, Mick Mills and Mark Dennis to push forward, surprisingly looking back at those defenders it was an often changing pairing, it Wright would play 29 times, Ken Armstrong bought to replace the retired Chrs Nicholl, would manage 26 and Agboola 33, but often Mark Whitlock 15(1) would also play a part.
This season in which Saints finished second and also reached the FA Cup semis brought Wright a full England cap and he seemed to have the world at his feet, but there was a feeling that he was a bit too big for his boots in another FA Cup semi at White Hart lane in 1986 Wright broke his leg an injury that meant he missed the World Cup in Mexico, when he returned to action in October 1986 he was a different player, he appeared to think he was better than his surroundings and this culminated in a home game against Norwich in the February with Saints heading to defeat a supporter confronting him on the pitch during a break for an injury, many thought he showed more passion in that moment than he did the rest of the season.
It was clear he wanted away, the only shock was that he went, not to a big club, but Derby County, The Rams were newly promoted and had a big money backer , well in those days it was big money and Wright went along with fellow Saint Peter Shilton, Saints fans felt that he had gone to further his bank balance rather than his career and that his talk of wanting to win trophies etc was hollow, especially as in the following season Derby would finish seven points behind Saints, indeed in Wrights four seasons at the Baseball Ground Derby would only finsih above us once and in his final season 90/91 they finished bottom relegated long before the season had finished.
It was then off to Liverpool and Wright would be turned inside out by Le Tiss on more than one occasion, once at Anfield when Le God scored a goal that even had the Kop applauding and would have been goal of the month had his effort against Newcastle the week before not been better, and he would also give away a penalty on Valentines day 1994 as Saints wracked up a 49 minute four goal lead against the Scousers as the snow came down.
Wright enjoyed a seven year spell at Anfield but only won one trophy.
Internationally he seemed to be blighted, he missed Mexico 86 as earlier stated, he did manage a couple in German for Euro 88 and starred in Italia 90 as England marched to the semis, in Euro 92 he let England down, disguising an injury in the hope he would be fit, manager Graham Taylor only found out about this when Wright didnt show at the airport, and unable to replace him at that stage England were a man short for the tournament, he was cast into the international wilderness because of this, with England missing out in USA 94 his swansong looked to be Euro 96 in England, but having forced his way back into the reckoning with his first games for his country in four years, he again picked up an injury and his career was nearing its end, finally giving up the ghost as he approached 35 in 1998.
For a player whose career had spanned 17 seasons his career total of 484 games was not as high as it should have been, ana average of only 28 per season, given that even Saints could expect to play approaching 50 games with even a short run in the cups and Liverpool a lot more, it wasnt much more than half of those he could have played.
For Saints he racked up 222 more than at any of his other clubs, scoring 11 goals in the process
After finishing playing he turned to management, starting with Southport in the conference (Irnically another ex Saints in Hugh Fisher had also managed them) and then taking over at Oxford, his departure was surrounded in controversy in that he resigned after being found guilty and suspended for alledged racist remarks to a linesman, Next up was Chester Citythen Peterborough, but controversy reared its ugly head when he was sacked this time the racist allegations were allegedly at a member of his own clubs staff. since then he has had two other spells at Chester city.
Some would question why Wright should be classed as a Saints hero, well the reason is that for a short time he was, between 82 -86 he was a stalwat in our defence and played during some of our best seasons in the top flight and also in two FA Cup semis and a league cup semi in 86/87, thats perhaps why Saints fans found his move to Derby so hard to take, it wasnt as if we hadnt been near a few honours ourselves in his time here. Peraps its a little unfair on Wright, he was perhaps the first of the true modern day footballers who prized money over pride and being succesful, at the time how were Saints fans brought up on the lyalty of their top players to know what the future was going to hold for football.
But in truth it was a little more than that and Wright was just not a very nice person or likeable character, the fans could sense that and neverquite warmed to him, so much so that he wa sone of the few Saints players who could never return and recieve a warm welcome back, whereas most who left would recieve good natured abuse and be applauded off the field whatever the result, Wright would never recieve that, it was always a hostile welcome to the very end, if his side lost then it would be "Juda Judas whats the score" ringing around the Dell.
But he was still a major part of this footballclub for a time and indeed won the player of the year trophy in 82/83 his first full season, sadly though for Saints fans of a certain age he willnever be remembered fondly.
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