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Football and the First World War

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Billy Wright

English defender, who captained England in three World Cup campaigns and led Wolves during the club's golden age during the 1950s.

William Ambrose Wright was born on 6 February 1924 at 33 Belmont Road, Ironbridge, Shropshire.  His father was a good amateur footballer and interest in the game was encouraged at Madeley senior school, where his teacher Norman Simpson picked him for the school team despite his diminutive stature. Simpson was also instrumental in encouraging Wright to join the ground staff at Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1938. The club intended to release him in 1939 because of his size, but he was so upset that it rescinded the decision, and he made his first team début at outside-right during a wartime match in 1939.

Wright became captain of Wolves in 1947, and led them to victory in the 1949 FA cup final and to Football League championships in 1954, 1958, and 1959. He was footballer of the year award in 1952 . Over 20,000 people came to see his final match, a pre-season training game on 8 August 1959 between the Wolves first team and their reserve side.For most of his career he was a right-half, but in 1954 injuries to colleagues, first in the England side and then at club level, saw him forced to convert to centre-half.  Wright compensated for his lack of height, he was only 5 feet 8 inches tall, with his intelligence and considerable jumping power. On 27 July 1958 he married Joy Beverley, pop singer, the eldest of the three Beverley Sisters.


Wright's England career began in a ‘victory’ match against Belgium in 1946, and he made his first appearance in an official international in a 7–2 defeat of Northern Ireland in September 1946. He became England captain in 1948 and, apart from a brief spell out of favour in 1951, was a virtually automatic choice until his retirement.   Wright became the first England player to be capped 100 times, when selected against Scotland in April 1959, and eventually he played in 105 international matches, captaining the side on 90 occasions.

On his retirement he joined the Football Association and took charge of the England youth and under-23 teams. He later managed Arsenal between 1962 and 1966 with little success.  Wright left football to build a new and highly successful career in television administration. He was head of sport and outside broadcasts for ATV from 1966 to 1981 and then controller of sport for Central Television from 1982 to 1985. After a period as a television consultant, he finally retired in 1989.

Wright died of cancer at his home, 26 Farnham Close, Friern Barnet, London, on 3 September 1994. His death was especially mourned in Wolverhampton, and over 3000 people watched his cortège leave the Molineux football ground—where a grandstand had recently been named after him—on its way to Wolverhampton crematorium, on 12 September.

See Billy life the FA Cup: http://br.youtube.com/watch?v=iLoaZtO80BQ