Position: Right wing / striker
From: Carlisle United - £100,000 - July 1998
Career stats: Soccerbase
He once was: The man of the moment
It's supposed to be fun, right? Somewhere amid the contract negotiations, false loyalty, expensive cars, bland professionalism,
grinding training ritual, pressure and the rest of the modern footballer's life, there ought to be room to run out onto the
pitch and enjoy playing.
Enter Nicky Wright.
Arriving in the summer, very much the lesser part of the deal with Carlisle that also brought Allan Smart to the Vic, Wright
was destined for the reserves. "One for the future", as the cliché goes.
Except that the future arrived rather sooner than expected. In September, making his astonishing, no fear debut against QPR, he caused
an absolute sensation. It was that knack of ghosting unnoticed into the box at the perfect moment, an instinct that
can't be taught, that made him an instant favourite, and that reached its natural conclusion eight months later at Wembley.
Still young, Wright is often more potential than actuality. But what potential. At his best - and at least thirty-seven thousand
Watford fans will have seen him at his best - he's an irresistible bundle of mischief. He simply never stops, forcing
himself into the play at every turn, never standing idly by like so many bog-standard wingers. A real Graham Taylor
player, fierce eagerness and determination as a smokescreen for sublime skill.
Let's keep it real. Dips in form come to everyone, and Wright's had his share. When he's been bad, he's been
quite atrocious - that dismal afternoon in Oxford, for example, when he could do nothing but stand there like the
village idiot while the ball bounced randomly off him. That crucial consistency just isn't there yet. Neither's the finishing
to match the striker's instinct, while we're really being honest.
Sod realism, though. Let's talk about that goal. It wasn't the fact that it went in, it wasn't the execution
of the perfect overhead. It was that he tried it at all. At Wembley in the First Division playoff final, stakes as high
as they'll ever get, and still playing with the same blind, fearless ambition.
Which goes back to what I was saying at the start. Wright plays with infectious enthusiasm and a gigantic smile, he
lights up all around him. He doesn't disguise his enjoyment. In the Premiership, with the odds stacked up against us, we
could've done with some of his ragged inspiration. We could still do with it now.
And they say that this Watford side has no stars....