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An ode to departing Man City goalkeeper Richard Wright

Richard Wright's memorable Man City career has come to an end. Photo: PA

By William Unwin

Manuel Pellegrini left the Etihad with a smattering of applause from a nigh-on empty stands despite leading Manchester City to three trophies and their first ever Champions League semi-final during his tenure.

Another veteran on the way out of East Manchester is Richard Wright, who failed to earn one first-team appearance against his name over a four-year spell at the club making a cult hero but his departure will get even less of a fanfare than his former manager.

Wright arrived with little fanfare in 2012 as a third choice goalkeeper with almost no chance of ever finding himself between the sticks in a competitive game. He brought experience to a role where he wasn’t necessary with the hope some of his know-how would rub off on England’s No.1 Joe Hart, as Wright made plans for a career after playing.

In the changing room Wright was always found to be incredibly likeable by his team-mates and the staff around the club; he never grumbled about his lack of opportunities and that four days of training a week would result in nothing more than that a seat in the stands if he was lucky, but always with a smile on his face as he travelled over land and sea to support his colleagues.

He’s been the butt of many jokes during his football-less spell in Manchester as he took home £350,000 a year for doing very little; not that too many would begrudge his last money-making hoorah in a relatively short career as Wright provides for his family.

There was no Champions League place for him in his final year at the Etihad as the club needed to place Angus Gunn on their squad list but Wright didn’t grumble.

Wright pictured playing for Arsenal in 2001. Credit: Reuters

Brief glimpses in pre-season friendlies reminded people of his existence as he tried to look sharp and prove a point but there were never enough people watching to take notice.

At the beginning of his career, Wright was tipped to be England No.1 after impressing as a teenager at Ipswich, leading to a big money move to Arsenal where he was understudy to David Seaman before taking advantage of an injury to his mentor, winning a Premier League title in the process. He looked to have the lot as a youngster thanks to his amazing agility and complete confidence.

England caps came but stopped at two, as fitness and form saw him cast to the side and others came and went as Wright lost his place in the international team and Arsenal side, as his self-esteem started suffering knocks that he would struggle to recover from.

Everton came calling for the likeable Suffolk lad and sporadic performances meant he was never able to make the desired impact at Goodison Park, spending a long time on the bench as he accepted the role behind Nigel Martyn.

His time on Merseyside was summed up when he was injured by a ‘Keep Off The Grass’ sign when warming up, forcing him to spend more time on the sidelines.

The last time Wright played consistently was during a second spell at Ipswich Town but when that came to an end he was set for benches and stands until the end. After a spell at Sheffield United he was back at Ipswich for one more appearance - his last in the league.

A young Wright poses for a photo with England in 1998. Credit: Reuters

In an eclectic career, signing for Preston and then leaving saying it was too far to travel within a week was a low moment in a career unblemished by personal fallouts with staff. But Wright landed on his feet when City came calling with a deal that would effectively end his playing career.

Patiently he has waited at the club, giving his all in training and spending a few games sat on the bench over four years, growing a greying beard as he goes not anyone would grumble with the man who earned two international caps. His only upset at City was when Pellegrini arrived and Wright was dropped from the matchday squads, meaning he wouldn’t collect bonuses that would almost double his weekly wage – an understandable frustration.

On the odd occasion he did have to get kitted out and nestle himself on the bench, Twitter was sent into meltdown that he might be forced to play a game for the first time in four years, alas it never came to fruition.

When City have collected trophies he’s always been in the celebrations, with those who have made a greater contribution always happy to incorporate their great mate in champagne soakings and selfies.

A coaching role has been rumoured for a while but it’s unlikely to be at the City Football Academy but there will be no shortage of takers for a man with his experience of highs and lows, especially as he has spent so many years absorbing information from some of the best coaches and custodians around.

Whatever comes of Wright in the future, his playing career will be respected on the whole and one would hope a life in coaching will bring him greater awards and the pleasure he seeks in the years to come.