Billy Wright (footballer, born 1924)

Last updated

Billy Wright
CBE
Billy Wright (1961).jpg
Billy Wright in 1961
Personal information
Full name William Ambrose Wright
Date of birth(1924-02-06)6 February 1924
Place of birth Ironbridge, Shropshire, England
Date of death 3 September 1994(1994-09-03) (aged 70)
Place of death London, England
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Position(s) Centre half
Senior career*
YearsTeamApps(Gls)
1939–1959 Wolverhampton Wanderers 490 (13)
National team
1948 England B 1 (1)
1946–1959 England 105 (3)
Teams managed
1962–1966 Arsenal
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

William Ambrose Wright CBE (6 February 1924 – 3 September 1994), was an English footballer, who played as a centre half. He spent his entire club career at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The first footballer in the world to earn 100 international caps, Wright also holds the record for longest unbroken run in competitive international football. [1] He also made a total of 105 appearances for England, captaining them a record 90 times, including during their campaigns at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 World Cup finals. [2]

Contents

Club career

Wright was born at 33 Belmont Road, [3] Ironbridge, Shropshire. His association with Wolves began in 1938 when, after being encouraged by his school teacher to respond to a newspaper advertisement inviting boys for trials, [3] he was taken on as a member of their ground staff. He was only 14 years old when he made his debut for Wolves in a B team game against Walsall Wood in the Walsall Minor League.

He had been accepted on an eight-month trial by Major Frank Buckley, who initially told Wright he was "too small" but changed his mind. [3] He made his first team debut for the club aged just 15 in a 2–1 win at Notts County in 1939. This game was played shortly after the start of World War II, so it is not counted as the official debut. His official debut came in the 1945–46 FA Cup in a two legged tie against Lovells Athletic.

He signed as a professional at 17, but the deepening effects of World War II soon forced Wolves to suspend competitive football. Wright turned out as a guest for Leicester City, [4] playing as both a forward and a defender before he returned to Molineux in 1942. A bad ankle break put his sporting career in doubt but he recovered, joined the army in 1943 as a physical training instructor, [4] and played for Wolves whenever possible, making over 100 appearances in wartime football.

He became club captain soon after the end of the conflict, with the playing retirement of Stan Cullis. With Wright leading the team, they won the First Division title three times (1953–54, 1957–58 and 1958–59) as well as the FA Cup in 1949. He was a virtual ever-present, missing only 31 games for Wolves during the 1950s. He retired from playing in 1959, a year before Wolves won another FA Cup. He made a total of 541 appearances both at and away from Molineux for Wolves.

International career

Billy Wright - back row, second from left - in a England national football team were he was captain. Photo taken just before playing against Scotland national football team in April 1959. England national football team, 11 April 1959.jpg
Billy Wright – back row, second from left – in a England national football team were he was captain. Photo taken just before playing against Scotland national football team in April 1959.

His performances for club saw him earn a call-up to the England team. He made his international debut on 19 January 1946 in a 2–0 win over Belgium in a (post-war) 'Victory International'. His full debut came on 28 September 1946 in a thumping 7–2 win against Ireland. He was made captain in 1948, a role he held for 90 games until his retirement (an all-time record shared subsequently with Bobby Moore). In 1952, with his 42nd cap, he surpassed Bob Crompton's appearance record for England, which had stood since 1914. In total, he made 70 consecutive full international appearances with 105 in all, scoring three times. He was also the first football player in the world to earn 100 caps, and it was more than a decade before his record was broken by another player, Bobby Charlton. As of present, Wright remains the ninth most capped player ever to have played for England being in possession of more caps than players such as Bryan Robson, Kenny Sansom, John Barnes, Martin Peters, Ray Wilkins, Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer. [5] [6] [7]

He retired as a player in August 1959. During his total of 105 games for England, his disciplinary record was excellent as he was never cautioned or sent off. The football he was given at the end of his 100th international match, between England and Scotland on 11 April 1959 at Wembley Stadium, was due to be auctioned in May 2015 after being held by an Arsenal player who after an injury was unable to play professionally. The player had been given the ball by Wright's widow after being trialled by the club. [3]

Managerial career

He became manager of England's youth team in 1960, before being appointed manager of Arsenal in 1962, replacing George Swindin. Initially Arsenal started strongly under Wright, finishing seventh in 1962–63 and qualifying for Europe for the first time in their history, but failed to build on this. Wright enjoyed mixed success with his signings, who included successes such as Bob Wilson, Joe Baker and Frank McLintock, but also less successful players such as Ian Ure.

Arsenal were unable to improve on their seventh in Wright's first season in charge, and their form gradually declined. Wright won only 38.46% of his matches in charge, the lowest rate for any post-war Arsenal manager (caretaker managers excepted). After a poor 1965–66 season – where Arsenal finished 14th and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers (who finished bottom of the First Division) — Wright was dismissed by the Arsenal board in the summer of 1966.

Football writer Brian Glanville, discussing Billy Wright's time at Arsenal, wrote: "he had neither the guile nor the authority to make things work and he reacted almost childishly to criticism". [8]

Life after football

Statue of Billy Wright outside Wolves' Molineux Stadium BillyWrightStatue.jpg
Statue of Billy Wright outside Wolves' Molineux Stadium

Wright was a minor media personality, and his marriage to Joy Beverley of the Beverley Sisters occurred at a time long before the era of footballers being known for having celebrity girlfriends. This was in July 1958, by which time Wright was 34, and proved one of the most successful showbiz marriages. [9]

After leaving management, he became a television pundit and Head of Sport for ATV and Central Television, before retiring in 1989. The following year, he joined the board of directors at Wolverhampton Wanderers as part of the takeover by Sir Jack Hayward. [2]

On 7 August 1993, he presented Manchester United with the FA Charity Shield, which they won on penalties against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. [10] On 7 December that year he was present for the friendly game against Honved of Hungary which commemorated the re-opening of Molineux as a rebuilt 28,525-seat stadium. The redevelopment saw three new stands built at the stadium in the space of two years, with the one replacing the Waterloo Road Stand being designated the Billy Wright Stand. [11]

Wright was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions: in May 1961 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the EMI Studios in London’s St John’s Wood, [12] and in January 1990, when Michael Aspel surprised him at Thames Television's Teddington Studios. [13]

Wright went on to be appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 13 June 1959. [6]

Illness and death

He died from pancreatic cancer on 3 September 1994, aged 70, having been diagnosed with the illness earlier in the year. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered on the pitch at Molineux. [14]

Legacy

In 2009, English football agent Bryan Yeubrey began a public campaign to obtain a posthumous knighthood for Wright. The campaign received support from several thousand fans and many former professional players. [2] [15]

In 2008, Midland Metro named an AnsaldoBreda T-69 tram in his honour. [16] [17]

Honours

As a player

Wolverhampton Wanderers [2] [6]

Individual

Further reading

See also

Related Research Articles

Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. Association football club in England

Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, commonly known as Wolves, is a professional association football club based in the city of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, England. Formed as St. Luke's F.C. in 1877, the club has played at Molineux Stadium since 1889 and has been competing in the Premier League, the top division of English football, since winning promotion in 2018. The 2020–21 season was the club's 66th season in total at the highest level and seventh since the foundation of the Premier League in 1992.

Cyril Sidlow was a Welsh football goalkeeper. He played for several clubs, most notably for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool.

Stan Cullis English footballer and manager

Stanley Cullis was an English professional footballer and manager, primarily for Wolverhampton Wanderers. During his term as manager between 1948 and 1964, Wolves became one of the strongest teams in the English game, winning the league title on three occasions, and playing a series of high-profile friendly matches against top European sides which acted as a precursor to the European Cup.

Ron Flowers English footballer

Ronald Flowers is an English former professional footballer, who played as a midfielder, and is most known for his time at Wolverhampton Wanderers. He was a member of England's victorious 1966 World Cup squad. He is the elder brother of John Flowers.

The 1958–59 season was the 79th season of competitive football in England.

Dennis James Wilshaw was an English international footballer. A forward, he scored 173 goals in 380 appearances in the Football League, and also scored ten goals in twelve appearances for the England national team. He spent 13 years with Wolverhampton Wanderers from 1944 to 1957, where he won the First Division title in 1953–54. He spent 1946 to 1948 on loan at Walsall, and ended his career after playing for Stoke City between 1957 and 1961.

Bert Frederick Williams MBE was an English international football goalkeeper. Nicknamed The Cat, he spent the majority of his playing career at Wolverhampton Wanderers where he won the League Championship and FA Cup. At the time of his death Williams was the oldest living England international.

Harold Edwin Clamp was an English footballer who played in the Football League for Arsenal, Peterborough United, Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Through his career he was renowned for his 'take no prisoners' style of play and was nicknamed 'Chopper Eddie'.

William John Slater,, also commonly known as W. J. Slater, was an English professional footballer. Slater made the majority of his appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers, with whom he won three league championships and the FA Cup.

Johnny Hancocks was an English footballer, most associated with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Jesse Pye was an English footballer. He played in the Football League for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Luton Town and Derby County and scored twice in the 1949 FA Cup Final for the former.

Norman Victor Deeley was an English professional footballer, who spent the majority of his league career with Wolverhampton Wanderers. He scored two goals in the 1960 FA Cup Final, in a performance that won him the Man of the Match award. He also won the league title three times with Wolves and was capped twice by England.

Billy Beats English footballer

William Edwin Beats was an England international footballer. A centre-forward, he scored 150 goals in 403 league games in 16 years from 1891 to 1907.

Thomas Galley was an English international footballer, who spent the majority of his league career with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The 1954 FA Charity Shield was the 32nd FA Charity Shield, a football match between the winners of the previous season's First Division and FA Cup titles. This year's match was contested by league champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and FA Cup winners West Bromwich Albion.

George William Showell was an English professional footballer who played in the Football League for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bristol City and Wrexham. He spent the majority of his playing career with Wolverhampton Wanderers, featuring in two league championship-winning seasons and in the 1960 FA Cup Final.

Benik Afobe

Benik Tunani Afobe is a professional footballer who plays as a striker for EFL Championship club Stoke City and the DR Congo national team.

The 2002–03 season was the 104th season of competitive league football in the history of English football club Wolverhampton Wanderers. They played the season in the second tier of the English football system, the Football League First Division.

The 2018–19 season was the 141st season in the history of English football club Wolverhampton Wanderers. The club competed in the Premier League, the highest level of English football, for the first time since being relegated in 2012. This was their second season under head coach Nuno Espírito Santo, with whom they won promotion as champions of the Football League Championship in the previous campaign.

References

  1. "Redknapp will face fury in Portsmouth return". The Japan Times Online. 17 October 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "City of Wolverhampton: History". Wolverhampton History.org.uk. Archived from the original on 23 April 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Billy's historic ball put up for auction". Shropshire Star. 12 May 2015. p. 15.Report by Andrew Owen. Main subject of report being pending auction of the football he played with at his century appearance for England.
  4. 1 2 "Obituary: Billy Wright". The Independent. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  5. "England: Most Appearances". England Football Online.com.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Billy Wright". England Football Online.com.
  7. 1 2 "Billy Wright". Wolves.co.uk.
  8. Brian Glanville (2003). "Billy Wright or wrong?". tssonnet.com. Archived from the original on 14 May 2006. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  9. Soukom (22 August 2009). FA Cup Semi Final 1994 Manchester United vs Oldham . Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  10. "Molineux Stadium history and facts". Oleole.com. Archived from the original on 25 December 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  11. "Billy Wright". Bigredbook.info. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  12. "Billy Wright". Bigredbook.info. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  13. "Billy Wright". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  14. "Battle kick-started for 'Sir' Billy Wright". Express and Star. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  15. Midland Metro British Trams Online
  16. Tram named in honour of Billy Wright Birmingham Mail 14 May 2008


Sporting positions
Preceded by
George Hardwick
England captain
1948–1959
Succeeded by
Johnny Haynes