When I watched Arsenal in the mid-nineties my favourite player was Ian Wright.
He scored the kind of goals kids tried to replicate in the playground, he looked like he was loving every minute of his job and he had buckets of what I believe the kids now call swag:
And we had/have the same birthday.
In the years since then, through a series of fortunate coincidences, I’ve met him several times, been to his house and been to his wedding (best wedding ever, partly because of his fantastic speech). He’s a lovely guy: funny, welcoming and really good at laughing at my crap jokes as if they’re the most hilarious thing he’s ever heard.
So I was really interested to find this short documentary on YouTube:
You might not have a spare 27 minutes right now, but I really suggest that you make a bit of time to see it.
It’s just Ian talking to camera with a couple of clips to illustrate what he’s saying, but the story of how he grew up with an alcoholic mother, an absent father and a stepfather who hated him is incredibly moving (try not to cry at 9:30). Then you find out how he came into football really late in life and worked his absolute arse off because he loved the game, eventually playing for Arsenal and England.
I was fascinated by what made him maintain his effervescence in the face of all that abuse, but the overwhelming inspiration you take from what happened to him is that it’s never over. No matter what’s happened before, you can decide at any moment to become the person you want to be, to do whatever you want to do.