Wolverhampton’s Billy Wright, “The Happy Wanderer”,

The 50’s was a time of transformation and from the end of the World War II everything started to shape up, as football started to change heavily. In that era of time a certain Billy Wright came forward, and became an icon of the game.

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Looking back in time it’s a chapter not written as much about as the next decades when English football became a more “global” phenomena. During the 50’s England qualified to both the 1954 and 1958 World Cup finals with Billy Wright as captain, but they were knocked out early on.

Billy Wright in himself was a fantastic player, but couldn’t find the key to win the World Cup, despite captaining the team and being a player reaching a total of 105 caps for England. World Cup heroes of 66, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton both passed Wright, so have Peter Shilton and surprisingly into the life of today few would believe that players again should reach such a tally of caps, but we have seen David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Andy Cole all passing Billy Wright in the list of most capped England players.

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So how did Billy Wright “rise to the occasion” and what made him such a fantastic player and in the 50’s building his “enigma”. Born in Ironbridge, Shropshire, a young Wright responded to a newspaper ad, Wolves offering “open trials”. This was back in 1938, when Wright was only 14 years of age. His senior debut happened a few weeks later in a B team match v. Walsall.

Wolves were also a good team just before the World War II, ending runners up in both 1937/38 and 1938/39, and then winning the league in the first full season after, seeing a great decade of trophy hunting. Wolves with Billy Wright as captain became a success formula, winning the league three times during this time, 1953-54, 1957-58 and 1958-59 did see Wolves at the top of the table. The FA Cup win in 1949 must be added to the trophies collected.

So did Billy Wright do it all by himself, no he had a number of good players around him and of course the manager Stan Cullis most be given probably as much credit as Billy Wright himself. Dennis Wilshaw and Jimmy Mullen both joined Wright in the 1954 England World Cup squad and also had great years at Molineux.

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When England four years later qualified for the finals in Sweden, Billy Wright was in there with three other Wolves players. Eddie Clamp, Bill Slater and Eddie Broadbent all made the squad. One not to forget is Ron Flowers, capped 49 times for England and the only Wolves player in the 1966 World Cup squad. Flowers played in 40 consecutive games for England from 1958 to 1963, and in total added up 49 caps. He was also important during the days of winning all those League titles in the 50’s.

When Billy Wright in 1959 decided to hang up his boots, he had added up 490 league games and scored 13 goals from his center-half position. Billy Wright never left football and was firstly appointed manager of the England Youth team and in 1962 walking into the “gaffer’s job” at Arsenal. He never became a hit at Highbury and after four years in charge retired from the trade of football management, starting a career in media, which made him a familiar face again and not just in England.

Norwegian TV viewers from the early days of the 70’s mostly know Billy Wright from his expert tips on English football games, coming live every Sunday evening on the Norwegian Broadcasting Channel, NRK. He wasn’t always getting everything “Wright” so he was often jokingly described as “Billy Wrong”, but again nice to have such a huge personality and World known footballer as a “local” out here over the sea.

Despite getting his chance in football management with Arsenal, Billy Wright will always be remembered as the unique footballer for Wolverhampton Wanderers and England, everything else will be overshadowed by those historical facts.

Billy Wright passed away in September 1994, only 70 years of age.

 

 

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