|Billy Wright was
everyone's hero in the bleak years following the Second
War. But in my family he was accorded special reverence
because, so I was told, he and my paternal grandmother
were born in the same house in Ironbridge on the Welsh
border. It was my grand ambition, as a young boy growing
up in the Manchester area, to see Billy Wright captain
England one day. There may have been players who had more
talent, but only Billy was ever-present when England
played. He became the symbol of the England team and,
indeed, English football in general.
In 1953, when I was nine, my family emigrated to Canada and four years later to the U.S.A. The football played primarily with the feet was ignored in these strange lands, and we had to rely on the Sunday newspapers mailed by relatives for the football news. Any hope of seeing Billy Wright and England had long since left me.
But then, one day in May, 1959, as my high school French class droned along, I was summoned to the office. My father had just heard via the grapevine that England were playing the U.S.A. that very night in Los Angeles, 250 miles to the south, and he had come to take me to the match. A few hours later we arrived at the ramshackle Wrigley Field baseball park in South Central Los Angeles. And there in the flesh, his blond hair unmistakable, was Billy Wright, England captain forever, or so it seemed to me.
England had a difficult time in the first half. In front of the goal they faced were the broad paths of a baseball diamond, and their passes and shots from the dirt surface went wildly awry. The U.S.A. attacked furiously and went one up. My memories of the match are dim now, but I vividly recall Billy taking command and rallying his teammates in that distinctly authoritative way he had. He had captained England in their infamous 1-0 loss to the U.S.A. at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, and he was not going to let that happen again. England managed to equalize just before half-time, and they scored seven more goals, all unanswered, in the second-half, when they passed and shot from a grass surface. Young Bobby Charlton got a hattrick, but skinny newcomer Jimmy Greaves went scoreless.
More than 40 years later, that
match still ranks as one of my most pleasurable
experiences, all the sweeter because it came out of the
blue. Only Billy Wright's remarkable longevity as England
player and captain enabled my boyhood dream to become
reality. It was his 105th England match,
PETER YOUNG Los Angeles, California
Norman Giller note: Peter is the innovative, finger-on-the-pulse webmaster of one of the finest England sites on the internet. I strongly recommend you visit it at www.englandfootballonline.com
Back in the mid fifties I was a keen Wolves fan and especially Billy Wright. I must have been about nine years old at the time when my father suggested we visit Stamford Bridge to see the match between Wolves and Chelsea. I don't remember the score but after the match we waited outside in the hope of getting Billy's autograph. The players came out and went straight into their coach. I was in tears and inconsolable. Somehow my father found out from where the team was catching a train and we flew across London and ran across the station concourse to the platform.
The team were already on the train but Billy was saying goodbye to a blonde, who we later found out, of course, was Joy Beverley. I positioned myself between him and the ticket gate and then he walked towards me. I was rooted to the spot, tongue tied and dumb struck, and I let my idol walk right past me. Once again I was in tears.
One of the Wolves officials none other than Stan Cullis saw my state, ruffled my hair and took me onto the platform. We boarded the train and came face to face with Billy. I collected his autograph and then Billy took me around the carriage to collect autographs from the rest of the team. One great memory of a great footballer.
JOHN DUNCAN Brockham, Surrey
I am an Arsenal supporter, and thought my club treated Billy Wright appallingly. He introduced the well-proven Wolves system of building from a youth base. But the Arsenal board ran out of patience and kicked him out just as his young discoveries were starting to come through. When Arsenal won the Double I wrote to Billy congratulating him on laying the foundation to the success. He replied in typical modest fashion, saying that all the praise belonged to the players and what he described as a 'brilliantly organised' management team. What a gentleman.
PHIL VAUGHAN Palmers Green, London
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