A Crystal Palace Fan On His Bust-Up With An Arsenal Legend
There is an old and trusted adage that you should never meet your heroes. There is good reason behind this as I have just discovered. The theory is that having spent so long in awe of the person you build up a picture of such perfection and idealistic notions that the reality is bound to be not quite what you expect and that person will fall off his lofty pedestal with a loud, crashing thud. So not only do you have to deal with the inevitable crushing disappointment of finding out that the person you have idolised over all those years is not so wonderful but also you are left with starting the long, laborious task of finding another one.
Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s Ian Wright was my idol as he helped to transform Palace from perennial under-achievers into a team hovering near the summit of English football, finishing third in the top division, appearing in the FA Cup Final et al. His transformation from being a non-league player into an England international was the sort of rags to riches story that is hard to resist. Wright banged in goals left, right and centre with Mark Bright alongside him, inspiring the most successful period in Palace history. And so he became my idol even though he subsequently left the club and enjoyed great success at Arsenal, there was always this feeling that we had been responsible for him and had enjoyed the fruits for those glorious early years.
But that switch to North London in 1991 did create some ill feeling and some of the Crystal Palace fans stepped over the mark in their condemnation of our former hero. The rancour went way beyond the acceptable and some of the vilification was disgraceful. Whilst upset by Wright’s departure, and who wouldn’t be over such an iconic figure, most reasonable and fair-minded Crystal Palace fans understood that it was time to move on and he did go on to have a glorious seven years with Arsenal. I must point out at this stage that I have not met Ian Wright but we have had a heated exchange of words, which has left me in no doubt that I am not going to be receiving a Christmas card from him in the foreseeable future.
Last week, some twenty odd years after he left Palace, I sent Wright a complimentary copy of my recently published book, The A-Z of Football Hates, as it was felt it would be a good chance to raise its profile. As Wright does get a mention in the book I felt it incumbent to alert him to this passage and also point out that I do have a pop at him about his over-celebration of a goal on the last day of 1992/1993 season that consigned Palace to relegation. The passage ends with the following. “So thanks, Wrighty. Your overzealous enjoyment will always stick in Palace fans’ craws. No doubt on his way home he drowned a couple of cute, cuddly kittens and ran over the odd panda just to confirm his status as the worst person in Christendom.”
The next thing I know is that Wright has got himself into a lather and sends a couple of tweets in response (since removed), which suggested he was not a happy bunny, pointing out the vile daubing of his mum’s house with Judas graffiti after he left Palace and finishing with the suggestion that I should “stick your book where the sun doesn’t shine.” So that did not end so well.
In this age of open access via the likes of Twitter we have more opportunities to engage with our heroes but sometimes, just sometimes it may not be for the best.