Image alt text here

The Big Interview part two: Wright - McGrath was class, Draper was daft!

Villa v Norwich: Albrighton backed for big contribution Villa v Norwich preview: Lambert - Fans can roar us to victory
The Big Interview part two: Wright - McGrath was class, Draper was daft!


Alan Wright remembers the day Mark Draper felt the heat - for setting off a hotel fire alarm!

Draper and Wright were roommates for three years and on this particular day - prior to a game with Everton - they were making their way back from breakfast for an early afternoon nap.

He said: "Drapes is a funny, funny lad. He was an intelligent guy but he had no common sense whatsoever.

"This one afternoon, he accidentally knocked one of the red 'fire alarm' boxes on the wall with his knuckle.

"It smashed and obviously he set it off. He carried on back, calm as you like.

"The whole hotel was evacuated but Drapes just got into bed. "He got a phonecall saying: "Can you leave the hotel immediately please, the alarm has gone off.'

"Drapes, looking bemused, just answered: 'No. No. It's really not a problem. I know there's no fire. I set off the alarm by accident.'

"There were fire engines everywhere and police cars and residents and people from surrounding houses.

"In the end he had to pay a fine of about £1,000 for the trouble he'd caused.

"Then, of course, there was the time he said: "I fancy playing for a big Italian club like Barcelona.'

"That sums him up. As I said, he was clever in an academic sense but common sense? He had none of it.

"We used to absolutely hammer him in the dressing room. But he took it brilliantly. He would give it back.

"If you're getting banter, it shows that the other lads like you.

"The banter was flying all over the place and that created the team spirit that made us successful. That's what we did so well. We had each other's backs.

"Drapes was class as a player too. He did a brilliant job along with the likes of Tayls. They were integral to our success."

Draper, of course, was a cog in a beautifully-greased wheel - along with Wright at left-back - that enjoyed great success in 1996 as Villa won the League Cup, reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and finished fourth.


Wright remembers his playing pals from that era exceptionally well - and he admits one player stands out above the rest - Paul McGrath.

He continued: "I never saw him get beaten for pace - and I never saw him kick a ball with his left foot!

"To not train in the week and then perform like he did? That was just phenomenal.

"He just rarely put a foot wrong. For all his issues, what a player. He was the standout. That was just natural talent in my opinion.

"He was a gentleman too, off the pitch.

"But on it, yes he was brilliant. He was exceptional.

"I have no idea how he fitted in so well on matchdays. We worked on shape all week and then he came in on matchdays and just did the business. He just knew what to do.

"Paul knew exactly where to be and what to do. He was like a magnet in our area - he cleared everything. And, remember, his knees were shot.

"Obviously as a defender myself, I remember most vividly the lads at the back from that 1996 era.

"Paul was the lynchpin. I was at left-back.

"Then there was Big Ugo Ehiogu. In training, you'd think you got past him and then this big arm would come across and drag you back.

"He was a huge, strong boy and he was brilliant for us. He was underrated.

"He was a brilliant player defensively but the one thing I would say is he thought he was better with the ball at his feet. At times he thought he was Maradona!

"But he was fearless. I remember him going for a 50-50 once and I thought Nigel Winterburn had been in a car crash. He was dazed, confused. He did a triple somersault and went down so hard.

"That just showed how phenomenal Ugo was in a tackle.

"Then there was Gary Charles at right-wing-back. Charlo was part of the Nottingham group with Tommy Johnson, Drapes and Ian Taylor.

"He was a character. He had mischievous moments off the pitch but on it, he did really well for us. He never got the recognition he deserved. He did a really, really good job.

"Of course, there was Gareth Southgate too. He was a fantastic player. He was exceptional at the top level for so many years and played for his country a host of times.

"He communicated the most out of us at the back and kept us all together. He was the leader in there. He was a really good player."


Wright appreciated his defensive mates a great deal during an eight-year claret and blue career but he also looked on in wonder at times at the sheer brilliance of his more attack-minded colleagues.

He added: "We had some unbelievable talent. Dwight Yorke was terrific.

"Stan Collymore, on his day, was superb. He should have got a host more England caps!

"David Ginola was unbelievable. I would overlap him going forward and then overlap him coming back!

"But, on his day, he was something very special.

"He was a luxury player. But when he fancied it, there was nobody better. He could turn it on like you wouldn't believe.

"You'd make a run for him and you'd never get the ball from him. But then he'd go on and score a goal or create a goal and you'd just admire what he did and forget about the run you'd made.

"He had that in his locker. He'd go past people like they weren't there. He was big, strong, quick and bloody good-looking too, which doesn't help the likes of me!

"And how about Savo Milosevic? We should have played with two balls at times with him because he'd have one to himself. Some of his goals were amazing!"

If we're talking about great goals, though, Wright must take a bow too.

He only scored five in claret and blue - but all of them were crackers, most notably strikes against Middlesbrough and Tottenham.

He added: "I didn't do tap-ins.

"I felt I never scored enough goals throughout my career when you consider the quality of my left foot.

"I got hammered for it in the dressing room and, one day, I thought 'I tell you what boys, I'm going to start shooting.' "I did score some good goals - but not enough of them.

"I earnt Jim Paul - our kitman - a few quid for that Middlesbrough goal.

"He had a bet I'd be first goalscorer. I was 33-1. He put £20 on it so he won over £600.

"The Tottenham goal, though, was my favourite. We were 2-0 down and ended up winning 4-2. They were all good goals that day too."

He joked: "But mine was the best of them!"

Check out part one of The Big Interview with Alan Wright.

Snap up match tickets for Villa v Norwich.

By @AVFCOfficial 1st March 2014