A long wait, celebrating the wrong goal, and THAT vest


Ian Wright - The Premier League Show

You can see Ian Wright mark the 21st anniversary of the day he broke Arsenal’s goal-scoring record on The Premier League Show at 22:00 BST on Thursday on BBC Two and the BBC Sport website.

It was strange going back to Highbury for this week’s Premier League Show.

I have so many fantastic memories there, but I don’t visit very often because the place is obviously very different now – it is flats and gardens, not the football stadium I loved to play and score at.

I am so pleased that it was the setting for one of the proudest moments of my career, when I broke Cliff Bastin’s goalscoring record for Arsenal, 21 years ago today.

For me to have done that, to have been the greatest goalscorer in Arsenal’s history, is still difficult for me to comprehend even when people tell me they were there to see it happen – which a lot of people do.

To understand why, you have to remember where I came from. I only got into the professional game at 21, with Crystal Palace, and 12 years later I was breaking Arsenal’s all-time goalscoring record that had stood for 51 years.

Even now, after filming this piece and with all the memories that have come flooding back, I still think: how did that happen to me at a club like Arsenal?

Ian Wright celebrates after his goal against Bolton that saw him break Arsenal's goal-scoring record<!–

Wright has lost count of the number of times he has signed the iconic image showing him with his shirt over his head, revealing a vest saying ‘179 – Just done it’ after scoring the goal that broke Bastin’s record

‘I can look back now and think I did my bit’

People would tease me when Thierry Henry was closing in on my record a few years later, but it did not bother me the way they thought.

Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to have that record but as I try to explain on the show, it took a World Cup winner, a Champions League winner – one of the all-time greats – to take it away from me.

And it is still very special for me to be the second-highest scorer in the club’s history. I certainly wasn’t thinking about any records when I joined Arsenal in 1991 – a lot of people were not even expecting me to play regularly.

The Gunners had been champions two of the previous three seasons under George Graham and I wanted to get the goals that would help us win the title again.

But I had to get in the team first. I remember watching the evening news on ITV on the day I signed and they did some vox pops about me outside Highbury.

People were saying ‘why are we signing him, we don’t need him’ and it was frightening. I just said to myself ‘I am going to prove them wrong’.

I can look back now and think I did my bit.

‘Reaching the 150-mark is when I knew I was close’

Cliff Bastin, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry<!–

Bastin was a winger who joined Arsenal from Exeter as a teenager in 1929 and played for the club until 1947, with his time at the club effectively ended by World War Two. Wright joined from Crystal Palace for £2.5m in 1991 and stayed at the Gunners until 1998. Henry joined from Juventus in 1999 and left in 2007, briefly returning in 2012.

I did not think about Bastin’s record of 178, which had stood since 1946, until September 1996.

Then, as part of a hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday, I scored my 150th Arsenal goal to move above John Radford into second place on the list.

After that, the media started mentioning it and I knew I needed another 29 goals to reach the magic 179.

At the start of the 1997-98 season, I knew I was very close but I just thought if I was playing, it would take care of itself.

I wanted to do something to mark the achievement, to show it was a very special occasion, which is where the vest saying ‘179 – just done it’ came in.

I wore it for a few games before I got the goals I needed, but the amount of times I have signed that picture, with my shirt over my head, shows I was right.

13 September 1997, Highbury – perfect setting for a special day

I talk on the show about what it was like having to wait to break the record, which wasn’t fun.

I wanted to do it for the Arsenal fans by breaking the record at Highbury against Tottenham at the end of August but it did not happen – I missed a couple of chances.

But one of the greatest things about it, in fact the thing I loved more than anything, was that I was still able to break the record in front of our supporters a couple of weeks later.

Ian Wright celebrates his 179th Arsenal goal with Ray Parlour<!–

Wright celebrates his record in front of the Arsenal fans – the whole stadium was singing ‘Ian Wright Wright Wright’ after his 179th goal went in

I remember watching Thierry break my record in a Champions League game in Prague in 2005 on TV and that was weird. Unfortunately for him, he did not get to do it in front of the fans at home.

For me, as I discuss on the show, I had the perfect setting – a sunny September afternoon at a packed Highbury. I just remember it was a gorgeous day. Well, until Bolton went ahead anyway.

I equalised a few minutes later and was so excited I thought I’d broken the record, which is why I showed off the vest at the wrong time. People have not forgotten that one!

Fortunately, I only had to wait a few more minutes before I did it for real, with one of the easiest goals I have ever scored. I am sure you will agree when you watch it.

I was mobbed by my team-mates and there was a brilliant atmosphere inside the stadium. The crowd reacted like the team had won something, and it was just an amazing feeling. I loved re-enacting it on the same spot, 21 years on.

Ian Wright celebrates his 179th Arsenal goal with Lee Dixon and Dennis Bergkamp<!–

Wright sprinted down the touchline after scoring his record-breaking goal – his team-mates caught up with him near the halfway line

My mum and my older brother Morris were in the East Stand and I carried on celebrating on my own, in front of them.

Morris inadvertently drove me to be a professional footballer when I was a kid by teasing me that I wasn’t good enough, or he was better than me, at this or that.

He did not even realise he was doing it, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me, so it was really fitting that he was sitting there in the stand with my mum.

I went on to complete a hat-trick before I came off very happy and completely drained emotionally, so I got to keep the match-ball to mark what was a brilliant day.

‘Proud to be part of Arsenal’s history’

The big screen at Highbury congratulates Ian Wright after his goals against Bolton<!–

Wright scored 185 goals in 228 Arsenal games. Thierry Henry scored his 185th and 186th goals for the club in his 303rd Gunners appearance.

We won the Double that season, and I went on to score a total of 185 goals for Arsenal, in 228 games – which I know was very quick – before leaving in 1998.

It took 51 years for Bastin’s record to be broken, but only eight years and 35 days until Thierry Henry passed my total.

I always thought I should have put that record out of sight, and I definitely believe I would have scored 200 goals for the club if not for suspensions and, towards the end of my time at the club, injury.

But what is out of sight when you have got a player like Thierry Henry, playing in a team as unbelievably good as Arsene Wenger’s side were?

When I am ready to get my pipe and slippers out and look back at my life, I will able to say I am among the great names of Arsenal’s history – and nothing makes me happier.

Ian Wright was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45497772

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