Ian Wright’s last Match of the Day and his legacy as a pundit

<span>Different things, ahoy.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
Different things, ahoy.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA


Match of the Day means different things to different people. For Ian Wright it means a little more than most. The former striker has previously spoken of his childhood and of how his stepdad was “a weed-smoking, gambling, coming-home-late, gambling-his-wages, womanising kind of guy. He was rough with my mum and rough with all of us kids. And I don’t know why, but he didn’t like me in particular. One of the few things my brother and I looked forward to in the house was Match of the Day, and my stepdad used to take that away from us — just because he could. Depending on what mood he was in, he’d come into the bedroom just before it started and he’d say: ‘Turn around to the wall.’ We had to face the wall the whole time Match of the Day was on. And the really cruel thing was that we could still hear everything. It was awful. Whenever I heard the theme music come on, I would feel that pain in my chest. The first time I went on the show as a presenter, Des Lynam walked up and said: ‘Ian Wright, welcome to Match of the Day.’ I nearly broke down crying.”

Wright’s displays of emotion are his legacy as a pundit. He has subliminally assured people in this country that it is OK to cry, to be joyful, to care about something. The tears, the giggling, his joyful kissing of the television screen after an Arsenal goal, the impassioned and articulate pleas to fight against racism, that Mr Pigden video and the Desert Island Discs interview that followed, the open declarations of platonic male friendship. Such is the open bond between him, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker that Wright got a tattoo on his hand over lockdown with the numbers ‘8, 9, 10’ after the shirt numbers the trio wore as players. “People laugh at me for the ‘8,9,10’, but it’s because I love you, man. You’re my guys”, Wright said on Sunday’s MOTD.

Wright did not get his fairytale ending as Manchester City romped to their fourth successive title, denying Arsenal a first championship in 20 years. But as the curtain fell on his final show, he did receive a consolation message from his granddaughter during a closing montage. “Hi grandad,” says the girl in a Manchester City shirt. “Well done for doing Match of the Day. But Man City are the best. I love you, you know that.” Succinct, accurate and opinionated, there might be a future in the media for this rising star.

That first MOTD appearance alongside Lynam was way back in 1997, with the then-33-year-old still just about in his pomp at Arsenal, and on his way to the Premier League title that season. “This is my Graceland, Des,” smiles a slightly overawed Wright, as he is introduced. With that in mind, it is not entirely clear why he is leaving the punditry role he has regularly held down since 2017 – explaining in December that it was time to “do a few more different things” – but it can’t have been an easy decision. Whatever Wright does next, even if it’s just kicking a ball in the garden with his granddaughter, it will surely be a brilliant and joyous thing.


“I just wanted to create role models I never had, to create a profession that wasn’t possible. We’ve all been told ‘no’. We’ve all been told ‘it can’t be done’, ‘the boys come first’, ‘it’s a men’s game’. But to think, there’s a final game at Old Trafford, a sell-out at Wembley, England winning the Euros, Arsenal selling out game after game. I think women’s football will explode. It’s already exploding but it’s going to really explode in the next few years and that was all I wanted. I hate naysayers … ‘oh, it’s unrealistic’, ‘it’s going to collapse’, ‘it can’t sustain it’, ‘you can’t invest this money’. And I always think the same thing – why are we so negative about investing in women? I’ve always felt really strongly about women and championing that and giving opportunity, and leaving it in the place that I dreamed about seeing. But I’m done” – Emma Hayes signs off from Chelsea after securing a fifth WSL title on the bounce with a 6-0 romp at Manchester United, meaning final-day despair for Manchester City.


Thanks to our friends at the Guardian Print Shop, we are giving away more David Squires cartoons. To enter, just write us a letter for publication below. We will choose the best of our letter o’ the day winners at the end of each week and that worthy winner will be given a voucher for one of our top, top cartoonist’s prints. And if you’re not successful, you can scan the full archive of David’s cartoons here and then buy your own. Terms and conditions for the competition can be viewed here.


While it is inevitable that at the busy end of the season Football Daily will be preoccupied with the Premier League and Big Cups along with pre Euros knee-knacks, there are happenings elsewhere in the pyramid where crises for clubs can be existential. Since you reported on 23 February that Torquay United owner Clarke Osborne had pulled the plug and was going to put the club into administration (full email edition): on 13 March … TUFC were docked 10 points for an ‘administrative event’ and plunged into a National League South relegation battle; 23 March … Neil Warnock appears at the first of three home matches with fan Michael Westcott; 28 March … a Torquay United Supporters’ Trust (TUST) consortium (led by Westcott) reveal they are bidding to buy the club; 4 April … TUFC goes into administration; 9 April …. TUST/ Westcott consortium discover they are not the preferred bidder; 12 April … TUFC are docked another point for fielding an illegible player (at which point fans throw up their hands in despair); 15 April … TUFC avoid relegation to the Southern League Premier Division South with a win at Taunton in front of 800-plus travelling fans; 26 April … TUST/Westcott consortium discover the preferred bidder might no longer be preferred; 1 May … Westcott’s consortium (now called ‘Bryn’ after the police dog that bit Jim McNichol and saved Torquay from relegation at the end of 1986-87 become the preferred bidder; 10 May … announcement by club that the Bryn Consortium will be the new owners of TUFC; 11 May … Westcott confirms Neil Warnock is on the board as football advisor; 14 May … much circulated video appears with Warnock revealing that Paul Wotton is the new Torquay manager. And so the story goes on (with a Community Share Issue by TUST soon). Just saying” – Bob Cole.

To VAR or not to VAR, that is the question (Friday’s Football Daily). Imagine if we’d always had that wretched slo-mo eye in the sky: England might not have a World Cup, Diego’s ‘Hand of God’ would be consigned to oblivion, Patrick Battiston still wouldn’t have his front gnashers but at least Harald Schumacher would have been sent packing, and Graeme Souness’s career as a part-time crusher of Romanian family planning would have been seriously curtailed. Would we trade these memories for three middle-aged blokes drawing lines in a hut?” – Mark McFadden.

In your photos of the referees’ dressing room/office (Friday’s Memory Lane, full email edition), I can see a banana, some apples, a bit of cheese, and a jug of orange juice, but no sandwiches. Obviously Neale Barry was expecting a visit from Chris Wilder” – Trevor Townson.

I spent a few days riding a bike through the Kimberley in Western Australia. All went well, with the only exception of extreme fatigue and losing my reading glasses. When I peered dimly at my missed Football Daily emails, I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath: ‘Who the eff wants to win a David Moyes cartoon.’ My cognitive abilities didn’t even stretch to ponder if he was indeed a part-time cartoonist, or what they might possibly be about. I actually would like a Squires one though, thanks” – Andy Collings.

Send letters to Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Mark McFadden, who now has the chance to win a David Squires cartoon from our print shop at the end of the week. Terms and conditions for all this can be viewed here.