Mark Wright (footballer, born 1963)
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|Date of birth||1 August 1963|
|Place of birth||Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire, England|
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Playing position||Central defender|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Mark Wright (born 1 August 1963) is an English football manager, chairman and former England international football player. As a player, he had spells with Liverpool, Derby County, Southampton and Oxford United during the 1980s and 1990s. He made 45 appearances for the English national football team, and was a member of the team which reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in 1990. Since retiring as a player in 1998, Wright has worked as a football manager. He has had three stints as manager of Chester City, during the first of which he led the club back into the Football League as Football Conference champions after a four-year exile. He has also had spells managing Peterborough United, Oxford United and Southport.
Mark Wright, who was born at Dorchester in Oxfordshire, started his career with Oxford United, signing professional forms during the 1980–81 season after coming through the ranks as a trainee with his local club. After only 11 appearances, all of which were in his second season as a professional, the outstanding young defender was transferred to First Division Southampton together with Keith Cassells in a deal which took Trevor Hebberd plus £80,000 to Oxford. On 5 August 2008, Mark Wright claimed that the fee involved in this deal was around £250,000 on LFC TV, Liverpool F.C.'s official TV channel.
He joined the Saints on 25 March 1982 and really made his name as a player with the south-coast club. The 18-year-old made his debut on 17 April 1982 in the 3–1 league win over Leeds United at Elland Road, a game which saw two Saints legends, Kevin Keegan (2) and David Armstrong, score the goals. He played in two more games that season.
Wright's first full season for the club, 1982–83, saw the Saints finish mid-table in 12th place and also saw Mark score his first league goal. It came on 30 April 1983 in the 2–2 league draw with Luton Town at The Dell. He was also voted Southampton's Player of the Year.
During the 1983–84 season, Wright's performances remained high as he helped the Saints to a very creditable runner-up spot to champions Liverpool, 3 points clear of 3rd-placed Nottingham Forest and 4th-placed Manchester United who both finished on 74 points. He also helped them reach the FA Cup semi finals, where they lost to eventual winners Everton. The Saints came closer than any other club that season to winning the double of the league title and the FA Cup. For their lack of silverware, they had the consolation of a UEFA Cup place. There was a fifth-place finish in 1984–85, though this time there would be no UEFA Cup place as all English clubs were banned from European competitions as a result of the Heysel disaster on 29 May 1985 in which rioting by Liverpool fans at the European Cup final resulted in the deaths of 39 spectators. Wright helped Southampton reach another FA Cup semi-final in 1986.
Somewhat surprisingly Southampton accepted an offer of £760,000, a club record fee at the time, from Derby County, who were also taking Wright's fellow international colleague Peter Shilton to the Baseball Ground. It coincided with Derby's return to the First Division after seven years away. Wright completed his move to the East Midlands on 27 August 1987.
After 222 appearances for the Saints in which he scored 11 goals, Wright signed for Derby County, on 8 August 1987.
Arthur Cox had recently taken the Rams back to the top flight of English football and had the backing of chairman Robert Maxwell to bring in some players who were proven at the top level. Wright made his debut on 29 August 1987 in the 1–0 league defeat to Wimbledon at the Baseball Ground.
Wright was held in very high regard at Derby and was soon awarded the captaincy. He helped Derby to 15th position by the end of the 1987–88 season and then a very respectable 5th spot by the end of the following campaign. However, behind the scenes things were going wrong for Derby: Maxwell was leaving and Derby had to come up with the money they owed him. This meant that quality players such as Wright and Welsh striker Dean Saunders had to be sold.
Wright stayed for one more campaign but it saw Derby relegated back to Division 2, not the way Wright would have wanted to leave the Rams, if he wanted to leave at all. He had played 171 times for Derby scoring 10 goals.
Not willing to play outside the top division, as it would diminish his chances of international football, he signed for Liverpool on 15 July 1991 for a fee of £2.5million – a national record fee for a defender. They had just finished second in the league to complete ten successive top-two finishes, and were preparing for continued success under the management of Graeme Souness who had succeeded Kenny Dalglish earlier in the year. Four days later, Wright's former teammate Dean Saunders followed him to Anfield from the Baseball Ground for a national record fee of £2.9million.
He made his Liverpool debut a month later on 17 August in the 2–1 league victory over Oldham Athletic at Anfield. He settled in quickly at Liverpool in the daunting role as replacement for Liverpool legend and former captain Alan Hansen, a player Wright was sometimes likened to.
Wright scored his first goal for the club on 1 September 1992; his 61st-minute equaliser salvaged a point against his former club Southampton at Anfield.
Wright was a regular until his retirement on 1 August 1998 at the age of 35. During his time at Anfield he captained the side to the FA Cup final in which they beat Sunderland 2–0 in 1992 but missed out on the 2–1 Coca-Cola League Cup win over Bolton Wanderers through injury. Wright was a major influence on the mainly young Liverpool team that consisted of players like Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler.
Under new boss Roy Evans, Wright struggled somewhat and was publicly criticised by Evans. He also started to pick up injuries which impeded his chances of winning over the Liverpool manager. He finally overcame the injury problems and came back into arguably the best form of his entire career, as evidenced by Terry Venables' decision to give Wright a surprising recall at international level. Unfortunately Wright suffered another injury setback, and wasn't able to take his place in the squad for Euro 96. Injury finally brought an end to Mark's career – during his time at Anfield he had made 210 appearances scoring 9 goals.
He had spent seven years with Liverpool, but had only managed to collect one major trophy in that time. His seven years on Merseyside could not have been more different from the ten years leading up to his arrival; before he arrived, the Reds had achieved 10 successive top two finishes (four of them championships), won two FA Cups, three League Cups and a European Cup. In the seven years after his arrival, they never finished higher than third (once finishing as low as eighth) and won just two major trophies.
It was Bobby Robson who saw Wright as an international-quality player and gave him his England debut on 2 May 1984 in the 1–0 Home International Championship defeat to Wales at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham.
His only international goal couldn't have been a more important one. England were struggling to find their footing during the group stages of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy having drawn 1–1 and 0–0 with Ireland and the Netherlands in their opening games. The group's so-called whipping boys, Egypt, were up next on 21 June 1990 in the Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari. Egypt defended in numbers and England couldn't unlock the door that would lead to an all-important goal, until Paul Gascoigne sent over an inviting free-kick for Wright to rise high above the Egyptian defence to head home what turned out to be the only goal of the game, and only their second goal of the group stages.
His impressive performances during this World Cup at centre-back and sweeper were one of the reasons why Liverpool bought him from Derby. He was originally a surprise selection for the tournament as he was ahead of the higher-rated Tony Adams, who was not fully fit when the squad was named. Some suspected he was an emotion-driven choice, as he had missed the 1986 tournament with a broken leg. However, his inclusion was justified as he was one of England's many stars that year as they reached the semi-final only going out to the eventual winners, Germany, on penalties.
Wright was selected for the Euro 92 championship squad. Unknown to manager Graham Taylor and the rest of the England staff, Wright had aggravated an old Achilles tendon injury in a recent friendly. Wright's club, Liverpool, kept the problem under wraps and did not notify England management until late afternoon of the day before the England squad were to leave for Sweden. Wright did not show up at the airport as the squad flew out, and Taylor waited anxiously for word on his fitness. When it became clear he would not play, Taylor applied to UEFA for permission to replace him with Tony Adams but was refused. Martin Keown replaced Wright in the team and he struggled to get back into squad for the next 4 years.
Wright ended up with 45 England caps but he would surely have passed 50 if he hadn't become injured just prior to the Euro 96 championship in England. His performances for Liverpool had alerted manager Terry Venables who gave him a shock recall for the international friendly with Croatia on 24 April 1996, 4 years after his last cap. He also played in the friendly with Hungary on 18 May, his final international appearance, before he got injured.
Wright was appointed manager of Southport, then in the relegation positions in the Conference, in December 1999. He led them to a mid-table finish, and in his first full season guided the club to fourth place. At the end of that season, in June 2001, Wright left Southport to make his Football League management debut with the club at which he began his career, Oxford United, newly relegated to Division Three, the fourth level of the Football League, after an absence of more than 30 years. He resigned six months later after being fined and suspended by the Football Association, whose disciplinary commission found "took the view that there was a racial element" in offensive remarks made to a match official.
Wright was not out of work for long. Put in charge of Conference strugglers Chester City in January 2002 with the club second-bottom of the Conference, he kept them clear of relegation to the Northern Premier League. In the 2001–02 season, Chester reached the playoff semifinals but lost to eventual winners Doncaster Rovers in a penalty shootout. After the match, Wright expressed their determination "to go one better next season"; a year later they finished top of the division, regaining their league status four years after losing it. However, the day before the League Two campaign began, Wright left the club.
Peterborough United appointed Wright as manager in May 2005. The team were progressing well, when on 25 January 2006 Wright was suspended from his position as manager pending an internal inquiry. Six days later he was sacked for gross misconduct after failing to appear in front of the club's board. Wright launched legal action against the club for breach of contract and damage to his reputation over allegations believed to include comments of a racial nature made towards one of his staff.
A month after leaving Peterborough, Wright rejoined Chester City as manager. His initial contract with the club lasted until the summer of 2006. Wright staved off relegation and was rewarded with a two-year contract. However, after only three wins in the preceding 20 games, chairman Stephen Vaughan fired Wright with just one game remaining of the 2006–07 campaign.
In November 2008, Wright joined Chester City as manager for a third time. Despite initially improving the club's performances, Chester suffered relegation at the end of the campaign and Wright left seven weeks later, claiming that "the difficulties faced by the club made it impossible for [him] to create the type of team [he] would wish to take forward".
In 2012 it was announced he had become chairman of non-league side Widnes Town F.C.
As a player
As a manager
- Chester City
- Football Conference champions: 2003–04
- "Widnes Town apply to NWCFL". NonLeagueDaily.com. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
- Mark Wright Statistics FIFA. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
- "Mark Wright - Southampton FC". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
- Metcalf, Rupert (24 December 1999). "Tough start for Wright". The Independent. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "History of Southport Football Club". Southport F.C. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "FA Admit 'Racial Element' In Wright Case". This is Oxfordshire. Newsquest. 26 November 2001. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Tallentire, Mark (1 December 2001). "Wright resigns as Oxford manager". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Oliver, Pete (18 April 2002). "Chester celebrate Wright choice". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Turner, Neil (6 May 2003). "City pay penalty". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Mark Wright". Chester City F.C. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Wright leaves Chester". BBC Sport. 6 August 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Turner, Neil (19 August 2004). "Wright accused of misconduct". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Shaughnessy, Jessica (20 August 2004). "Friends support former City boss". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Posh unveil Wright as new manager". BBC Sport. 31 May 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Peterborough suspend boss Wright". BBC Sport. 25 January 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Wright is sacked by Peterborough". BBC Sport. 31 January 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Wright set to sue Posh". Peterborough Evening Telegraph. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Triggs, David (24 February 2006). "Points not popularity". Chester Chronicle. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Turner, Neil (30 April 2007). "Wright out as Vaughan rings changes at Chester". Chester Chronicle. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "Wright resigns as Chester manager". BBC Sport. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Philip, Kirkbride (23 August 2012). "Former Liverpool defender Mark Wright named new manager of Malta's oldest club Floriana FC". Retrieved 9 October 2012.
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