FORMER England star Ian Wright has finally learned to respect marriage and considers himself happy and at peace for the first time.
The Arsenal legend – and Sun columnist – reveals his joy in new autobiography A Life In Football.
Football star Ian Wright tells how he considers himself happy and at peace for the first time in his new autobiography[/caption]
In exclusive extracts in the Sun, Ian, 52, also tells how he was nearly made bankrupt by financial advisers, risked destroying his career by smoking dope before matches and how he still fears for his family following a terrifying armed robbery…
I’ve got eight kids with four women. Two I married, two I didn’t.
Sharon is mum to my eldest boys, Shaun and Bradley Wright-Phillips. My third son is Brett.
Ian when he was a Crystal Palace footballer with sons Bradley and Shaun in 1990[/caption]
Then Deborah and I got married in 1993 and we have a son, Stacey, and a daughter, Bobbi.
My daughter Coco was born in 2006 and I support her but play no other part in her or her mother’s life.
And I married Nancy in 2011, and we have two daughters, Lola and Roxanne.
I didn’t set out for it to be like that. I wanted to get married just once and never planned to have so many children in so many different circumstances.
Ian Wright with then wife Debbie and baby daughter in April 1997[/caption]
Me and my brother always used to say we didn’t want kids at all but, as we were growing up, everywhere we looked there were lots of guys with kids.
It’s difficult not to be taking that in on a pretty deep level, even if you don’t realise you are, and that’s the real problem with the so-called Vanishing Black Father: it’s self-perpetuating.
When I was younger I used to go around with Shaun and Bradley’s uncle, Norman, Sharon’s brother, and he had girlfriends and kids everywhere. I kind of absorbed that and it almost felt like that was what people did.
This one’s sleeping with that one, he’s got kids with her, her and her, she’s got kids with him and him . . . you go to Jamaica it’s the same thing.
I’m not saying it’s the best way to live and, really, I just fell into it rather than made it a choice.
Ian Wright with wife Nancy and family at the premiere of Kung Fu Panda 3 in Leicester Square, London, earlier this year[/caption]
I would love to have a better relationship with my 17-year-old daughter Bobbi, and I’m sure she’ll blame me for that, but I saw how her brother Stacey worked things out so I know it’s not permanent and it will come good in the end.
It was while I was playing for Arsenal and everything was going so well for me that I got a bit carried away with myself because of all the attention I was getting, the money I was being paid and having so many people all over me.
I got caught up in all of that and cheated on first wife, Debbie, which destroyed my marriage. That was a really horrible period.
I was still scoring goals, still doing my job but off the pitch I hated myself — I knew what I was doing was so wrong but I was so caught up in that moment I didn’t stop it.
If there’s ever been a time in my life I wish I could change, that would be it.
Crystal Palace striker Ian Wright with sons Bret , Bradley, Shaun and cousin Kelvin[/caption]
Financially I’m doing OK but I’ve still got to work hard at it. I live far more modestly than some people might expect. I’m constantly getting cab drivers coming to pick me up, seeing I live in a normal terraced house and saying, ‘Blimey, is this where you live? I expected something bigger.’
I’ve got no problems with that, because I am where I am — I’m not proud at all.
I’ve had the 12,000sq ft house with all the cars outside, like on MTV Cribs. I lost most of it in the divorce from my first wife, but that’s all right — considering where I come from, at least I was privileged enough to have had it.
The only serious cloud in those skies is the income tax issues that have been with me for a while now.
It’s not just me, either: there’s a whole generation of footballers out there who are in the same boat and were wrongly advised and badly treated.
The wave of financial advisers that appeared around the 1990s took our money to carry out the advice we paid them to give us but never paid the tax. They are long gone and have left us holding the baby.
Ian and Shaun Wright Phillips play the Nintedo Wii Boxing game[/caption]
I’m not a tax fraud, I’m not a tax cheat, but at the moment I’m at the complete mercy of HM Revenue & Customs because of things that happened back then.
At one point I had eight or nine properties but all I was left with was the first one I bought, which was my mum’s, because I wanted to make sure she was all right.
I’ve had a couple of accountants that have advised me to go bankrupt. I refuse to do that because it would take me decades to get out from under that. I’d be about 85!
My punditry career would be over. I’d be a prominent black man who had a successful career and ended up bankrupt . . . they’d probably say I spent it all on weed, or that I lavished it all on cars, clothes and an extravagant lifestyle.
I wish I’d given more money to my family instead of financial advisers.
I still wouldn’t have any money but I doubt I’d have this tax bill.
In my home life I couldn’t be happier.
Former England international and ITV soccer pundit Ian Wright[/caption]
It’s taken me until the age of 52 to properly learn what love is. I didn’t experience an enormous amount of love from my mum when I was a child, so I’ve had to learn what it is, and learn how to be happy and at peace.
I’ve put other people through horrible experiences along the way. If people think that’s selfish, then I’m really sorry.
Nancy’s the perfect woman and I can’t stand to be apart from her and our daughters, so you can imagine what it was like when I was away in Brazil working on the World Cup in 2014 and I got the call about the robbery at our house.
She phoned up and told me they’d just been robbed at knifepoint by four kids — and they were kids — who had invaded our home.
How one of them was standing in Lola’s bedroom, one in Roxanne’s bedroom, threatening to cut their fingers off if Nancy didn’t tell them where the safe was. I got the call at 5.20pm and by 7pm I was on a plane home.
That was the worst 15-20 hours of my life.
I was so relieved that, with all the pulling and pushing about Nancy had been through, she wasn’t hurt.
She’d had the presence of mind to just give them what they wanted.
Her biggest concern was that they didn’t wake the girls. It was a miracle neither stirred when these guys were in their rooms.
What made me so sad was thinking about the guys who did it. I feel they were not unlike some of the guys back in Brockley, South London, and they were the same kind of guys that I was dealing with when I made Football Behind Bars: they were the same age, and had no respect for anybody or anything.
They’re the ones stabbing, killing and shooting people. The police were embarrassingly poor. We must have had 50 police officers at our house and they were terrible.
Nancy had to go to the police station where they did a line-up of kids but they’d had hoods on, and although she could have said how tall the robbers were, the line-up was sat down and she couldn’t make out their heights. She told them this was pointless.
Maybe their hands are tied by the justice system, but it’s as if the police are powerless at the moment. It seems the whole way they operate is so much in favour of the criminal — and the criminals know this and have got particularly bold.
Very late one night I got a phone call from a voice I didn’t recognise. When I asked, "Who is this?", he said, "You don’t need to worry about who this is."
The guy on the phone said it could be a month, it could be a year, it could be ten years, but if the thieves were saying they were going to cut my daughters’ fingers off, they’re going to pay for that.
There was going to be no retribution from my side. We just wanted to get on with our lives and the last thing I wanted was anything to come back on my family.
Then he hung up the phone and I never heard from the voice again.
It was like something out of a film: it’s chilling.
I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I am sure that at some stage we will hear something. Which is unfortunate for whoever it was who robbed our house, and not the way I would go about things.
A Life in Football: My Autobiography by Ian Wright is published by Constable on September 22, priced £18.99.