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The Big Interview part one: Wright - Little unsure of sizeable impact
Paul Brown chats to Alan Wright.
28th Feb 2014
The Big Interview part one: Wright - Little unsure of sizeable impact


Brown

Likeable left-back Alan Wright made a sizeable contribution to Villa for the best part of eight years, despite standing just 5ft 4in in height.

But he admits that Brian Little once angrily tore a strip off coach Tony McAndrew for even suggesting him as a potential signing for the claret and blues.

Little soon changed his mind, though, as Wright moved to Villa from Blackburn in the 1995 transfer window.

The rest is history as the Ashton-under-Lyme ace performed admirably for 329 games, scoring five goals.

He said: "There was a funny story about how I signed.

"When I was at Blackpool, Brian Little was the manager of Darlington. He sent Tony McAndrew to watch one of the other Blackpool lads in a game. I was playing too.

"He told Brian when he reported back: 'Forget about the lad you asked me to look at, there's a left-back that's decent. He's worth a shout.'

"Brian went to the next game and dragged Tony into his office the following day and shouted: 'Don't you ever send me to look at a full-back that small again!'

"The day I signed for Villa, I bumped into Tony. He then went charging in to see Brian and said: 'You know that lad you told me was too small, you've just bought him for a million quid.'

"I'm not sure what changed his mind? I must have grown a couple of inches!

"But joking aside, when I did sign, I recognised very quickly that the whole club was magnificent. You could sense the tradition and you could feel the history.

"I settled in so quickly. I was welcomed by the manager, the players and supporters. It felt like home immediately."

Wright

Wright turned his back on eventual champions Rovers to sign for Villa, then battling to escape relegation from the top-flight.

He didn't have any doubts about the move and was eventually rewarded the following term when Villa won the League Cup, reached the FA Cup semi-final and finished fourth in the Premier League.

He continued: "Towards the end of the 1993-94 season, I had a hernia problem and they brought Graeme Le Saux in. I got myself fit. I went back the following pre-season and then the other hernia needed doing.

"To be fair to Graeme, he came in and got into the England team and really excelled. It was very difficult for me to get him out of the side.

"We played Villa at Villa Park in a midweek game and I was on the bench. After that match, Kenny Dalglish pulled me into his office and told me that Villa had come in for me. He told me he thought it was a wise move.

"I wasn't playing many matches and I wanted to play football. I wanted to kick-start my career somewhere. The fact it was at Villa with its massive history and tradition was brilliant.

"I wasn't turfed out of Blackburn. It was just the right time to move and the decision was made easier because of the magnitude of Villa. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

"Blackburn went on to win the title but I have no regrets. It was perfect for my own career. I was a couple of games short of getting a championship medal. I didn't warrant one anyway. It would have been nice but it was one of those things.

"But the following season for Villa was just brilliant. I remember it from day one.

"We played Man Utd on the opening day. That was the afternoon that Alan Hansen famously said: 'You'll never win anything with kids.' I think they won the double that year.

"We beat them 3-1 and it snowballed from there.We finished fourth, we won the League Cup and got to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

"It was a bit of a slog but you didn't mind that. I think we played 50 odd games and I played in all of them.

"To top it off, I was voted into the best Premier League XI that season along with Ugo Ehiogu. That was the icing on the cake. It was a great season. It was special.

"The way we won the League Cup was outstanding. Without disrespecting Leeds, it was almost too easy.

"I remember the 20 yard goal from Savo and the great finishes from Tayls and Yorkie.

"Everything dropped into place. It was like it was meant to be. It was 3-0 and it could have been more really."

Wright

That memorable match was undoubtedly the highlight although Wright insists that the relationship he forged with the fans was something he will always have with him in his life.

He admits to being a "seven or eight out of ten man" - and it was this consistency which endeared him so much to the claret and blue faithful.

He continued: "I had a great relationship with the fans. I am a big believer that if people can see that you're giving 100%, they will support you.

"I don't think fans can ask for any more than that. They know you're going to have off-days but they appreciate it if you're giving everything for the shirt.

"If you work hard, people will take to you. I had a fantastic relationship with the supporters and the bond was very strong.

"I look back and enjoyed my time there and I'd like to think that the fans enjoyed me being there too. I feel like they did. They were great with me.

"I had a few boo-boys for a period but that was when I was the only left-back at the club.

"I knew subconsciously that I'd be playing every week. I took my foot off the gas without realising. I did take a bit of stick and it was fairly due.

"I soon realised I wasn't performing as well as I should have been.

"It was around the time we brought in Najwan Ghrayib. That gave me a prod and then I was back to normal again. It was a short spell. It was my own doing.

"Supporters aren't stupid. They know when you're off. Then they're entitled to voice their opinion. I knuckled down, improved and then they were right behind me again. I thank them for giving me that push to improve.

"I think they recognised my consistency of performance. I am a strong minded person. If I set my sights out to do something, I will do it.

"You had good days and bad days but I always felt I was a seven or eight out of ten man. I'd prefer that than a being up and down every week.

"I prided myself on my consistency. I knew my limits as a player and I stuck to them. I didn't try things I couldn't do. I worked on the things I was good at."

Wright

It wasn't all plain sailing for Wright, though.

Yes, he enjoyed the League Cup win of 1996 but he also had to endure the heartache of FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea in 2000.

But even that didn't come close to the devastation of being told he was on his way out of B6 in 2003.

He added: "That was a boring FA Cup final. It was as if one goal was going to win it. Unfortunately it wasn't us.

"It was a fantastic occasion but to come out as losers was really heart-breaking.

"Leaving the club was a stressful time. The last thing I wanted to do was leave Villa.

"I had done well for the club but Graham Taylor's remit was to bring younger players through. I was around 31 at the time, of course.

"To be fair to the manager, if he's asked to do it, that's what he's got to do.

"I got pulled in and told there could have been a new contract offer but they weren't going to put it forward because it would be embarrassing. So they decided not to make it.

"In all honesty, with hindsight, I probably would have taken it because I was enjoying my time so much there.

"I remember driving through the gates of Bodymoor Heath for the final time crying. I shed some tears. It meant that much to me.

"I didn't want to go. It was emotional and frustrating. I felt I still had something to offer, when if it was when Jlloyd Samuel got injured. I felt I could helped him in his quest to become a better player. But it wasn't to be."

Look out for The Big Interview part two on Saturday as Alan Wright discusses great goals, great players - and the day Mark Draper was given a £1,000 hotel bill.

Snap up match tickets for Villa v Norwich.

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