Wright has a pedigree in the game after receiving praise from Special One and John Terry, and playing against Leeds in an FA Cup win in January
“I should have swapped shirts with him, right? That would have been worth a fortune when this tournament is over! “
Mark Wright is in his element when talking about England’s newest star.
“Kalvin Phillips, I absolutely love him,” he says Goal. “Did you see him against Croatia? What a player! “
Wright, the reality TV star-turned-host-turned professional footballer, posted a picture of the two together in January playing for Crawley against Phillips’ Leeds. Wright came on late when the League Two side took a famous 3-0 win in the FA Cup third round.
The game was documented in “The Last Chance,” a BBC documentary that followed Wright’s attempts to make a professional career some 15 years after his release at Tottenham, where he captained the U18s and alongside Jamie Redknapp and Helder Postiga had played at reserve team level.
He did it too. These minutes against Leeds were followed by a League Two start against Harrogate a few weeks later. He was released at the end of the season, but it was his mission accomplished for a man who would like better for appearances on shows The only way is Essex, I’m a celebrity … get me out of here and Be sure to come dance.
“Well, that’s what you say,” says Wright. “But it doesn’t feel like I did it, you know?
“I played that game against Leeds and started a game in the Football League, but you know how people are, they love to take you down. I know I deserved my place on the team – a coach under pressure won’t play you for it – but I wanted to play 10 games. That was my goal.
“If I had done that, I would have thought I really did.”
Wright’s football pedigree is strong. He was on the books at West Ham, Arsenal and Charlton before signing YTS forms at Tottenham, where he starred alongside Jamie O’Hara and Charlie Daniels, among others.
His younger brother Josh has now played more than 400 Football League games for Scunthorpe, Millwall and Gillingham. Like Mark, he joined Crawley in January. It was a proud moment when the two shared a pitch for the first time in a competitive game.
Those who have played with the older Wright say he had the talent to go far in the pro ranks, but he admits that engagement as a young player was an issue.
“I loved the game, but others really loved it, you know?” He says. “When I look back, I didn’t love it enough.”
He continues: “For me, Charlie Daniels is the example that every young footballer should follow. We were in Tottenham as teenagers. I pushed him out of his position as a left-back, he went to the center left[field], I took the captain’s armband off him. I was before him at 16, 17.
“But while I was the first to leave the training ground, right in my car and on my way to see my buddies, I was gone, he stayed and did the extras and practiced every day while I was driving. He absolutely loved it.
“In the end, we were both released. I went to Southend and fired it, apologized and drifted off into the non-league and he went to went [Leyton] Orient, then Bournemouth and ended up in the Premier League. “
Wright took a different route, of course. He was a stockbroker and nightclub promoter before entering the world of showbiz with TOWIE. However, football was never far away.
“I represented England when I played in the Conference [for Thurrock], “he says.” It was maybe just a ‘C’ international [for non-league players] but I still wore the Three Lions and sang the national anthem.
“It was out in Bosnia. We were actually beaten that day and I didn’t have a good game at all, but hey! “
He adds, “And I’ve been fortunate enough to represent England in charity games like Soccer Aid. The same of me and [singer] Olly Murs gets laughed at because people say we take it too seriously, but what would you do?
“You play with and against world stars, some of the greats of the game, and you wear an England shirt in front of thousands of people in the stadium and millions more at home! You want to show that you have you a little bit, don’t you?”
Judging by some praise, Wright has certainly shown that he “has a little.” Jose Mourinho once said with a straight face that he would bring him to justice, as did Sam Allardyce. John Terry and Wayne Rooney are admirers, as is Joe Cole, a childhood hero as a West Ham fan.
The question comes up; does he regret something?
“I used to be, to be honest,” he says. “When Jose Mourinho said things, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, I sometimes thought, ‘Ah, did I miss a trick?’
“That’s why I did the Crawley thing, to be honest, but the big regret is that I didn’t when I was 29. When I did the first Soccer Aid in 2016, I trained with people like that. ”By Jermain Defoe, who still played in the Premier League and stood up to me. That was when Mourinho said what he said. I wish I had tried then, but instead I went to LA and got one [TV] work there.
“It wasn’t until the lockdown came last year that I thought, ‘This is my chance.’ The thing is, you don’t notice how quickly these years go from 29 to 34 and how much it catches up with your body! “
He grimaces as he remembers how it ended in Crawley, who came on as a substitute in a 3-1 home loss to Harrogate at halftime in February.
“I shouldn’t really have played,” he says. “I was actually injured before the game. I woke up in the morning, looked at my toes as I got out of bed, and tore the whole of my neck and the top of my back open.
“Well, if you notice in the Harrogate pictures that I have black tape under my shirt. I couldn’t even look around! The bench screamed at me and I had to turn my whole body!
“And what happened was that I hurt my hip and had to get out at half time because I was holding my body incorrectly.
“It took me about three weeks to get back. Then I played a friendly against Dorking and tore my bar. I was close to tears. It was like, ‘I did all this to do nothing?’
“I did the stupid thing. I hurried back. The physio advised me another two weeks, but I said no because I couldn’t feel it. So I trained like ad * ckhead and felt it when I warmed up. I turned it into a second grade tear and that was it. I came back to the last game of the season when I was on the bench, but that was about it. “
He left Crawley last month and says the book is now almost certainly complete about his professional career.
“I feel like I did it,” he says. “My body has failed me, and it was also a great burden on the mind as everything else was going on [he has a daily radio show on Heart, as well as a popular fitness app]. I started at 7 a.m. and didn’t finish my day until 11 p.m., five or six times a week. It was very challenging and very exhausting.
“I think if I had done it when I was 29, this story would have been a lot bigger and a lot better. I really. I think I could have played League One if I had really tried hard.
“John Terry said to me I could have played Championship and Harry Redknapp said something similar on a podcast we did together.
“It’s thought-provoking, isn’t it? But hey, you can’t do everything! “
“New research on behalf of Booking.com, the official booking partner for accommodation and attractions for UEFA EURO 2020 ™, shows that Scotland’s fans are so passionate about the game that nearly nine in ten (86%) believe it will beat England would be just as emotional as winning the entire tournament. ”