September 13, 1997: Wrighty becomes our record scorer

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History

Club goalscoring records tumble

Ian Wright

If you watched Arsenal from 1991 to 2007 you were lucky enough to witness two of football's most exciting strikers in their prime.

Ian Wright and Thierry Henry never shared the same pitch in a competitive game but, the 1998/99 campaign apart, one or the other graced Arsenal with goals, passion and panache for 16 years.

Both made history and both are true Arsenal legends. We pay tribute to them here.

Ian Wright

From the moment he arrived at Highbury in 1991, Wright banged in the goals for Arsenal. A hat-trick here, a vital winner there, 'Wrighty' was Mr Reliable in front of goal and surely the most natural finisher in the Club's history.

"Wright ripped off his shirt to reveal the message: '179 - Just Done It'. In fact, it was No 178."

Cliff Bastin's club record of 178 goals looked secure when Wright made his debut in a League Cup tie at Leicester in September 1991. By the final whistle he was off the mark and by the end of his league debut Wright was already netting at an average of two goals per game. Maybe Bastin had a pretender to his throne after all.

Sure enough, when the 1997/98 season kicked off Wright was sitting pretty on 174 goals. Three goals in the opening two games of the season - against Leeds and Coventry - moved him to within a goal of Bastin's mark. The football world waited for the inevitable.

And still they waited. Suddenly, Wright's torrent of goals dried up. He went three games without finding the net - rare for a man with Wright's scoring rate - and an international break extended his drought to over a month. When Bolton visited north London on September 13, 1997, Wright just wanted it done and dusted.

Bolton took a shock lead at Highbury but, 20 minutes in, Wright latched onto a pass and drove firmly past Keith Branagan into the bottom corner. No doubt relieved to end his barren run, Wright ripped off his shirt to reveal the message: '179 - Just Done It'. In fact, it was No 178.

The T-shirt would get a more timely airing just five minutes later. Dennis Bergkamp made inroads into the Bolton defence, Patrick Vieira challenged for a loose ball and, with the keeper stranded, Wright had a tap-in from no more than five yards. Of all his 179 goals for Arsenal, it was probably the simplest.

Cue pandemonium at Highbury. The whole Arsenal side rushed to congratulate the Club's new record goalscorer and the home fans, willing Wright to eclipse Bastin since the start of the campaign, gave the striker an ovation which lasted long after Bolton were ready to restart the game.

Typically, Wright went on to claim a hat-trick as Arsène Wenger's side ran out 4-1 winners. It was the perfect day for a man who deserves his place in history as an Arsenal great.

02:01

A Day In Time

Thierry Henry
When Wright eclipsed Bastin's goals tally for Arsenal, he probably thought his record would stand for decades. Then again, like the rest of us, he hadn't reckoned on Thierry Henry.

"These are the guys who have given me the passes. All I have had to do is put the ball in the back of the net. This would not have happened that quickly without them."

Thierry Henry

The Frenchman arrived at Highbury in the summer of 1999 as a talented winger. No danger for Wrighty there, surely? Not until Wenger transformed Henry into a superstar striker and one of the most extraordinary talents to grace the red and white shirt.

Henry studied videos of Wright's finishing and, on October 18, 2005, he surpassed his friend with a double against Sparta Prague in the Champions League. Wright's record had stood for eight years and 35 days.

Henry's landmark moment will live long in the memory, particularly for those who made the trip to Prague. The Frenchman was not expected to play for more than half-an-hour after six weeks on the sidelines with a groin injury. In the event, he replaced the injured Jose Antonio Reyes just 15 minutes in.

Six minutes and four touches later, Henry produced a stunning strike to put Arsenal ahead and match Wright's tally of 185. Then, 16 minutes from the end, came the goal that will be remembered and replayed.

It was no cracker, just a simple swivel and turn. Still it was Henry's 186th in only his 303rd appearance in an Arsenal shirt. An incredible achievement from an incredible individual.

"When I scored the second goal I wanted them, my team-mates, with me to celebrate," said Henry on the flight home from Prague. "But then in my six years at the Club I would like mention all my team-mates. People like Dennis, Patrick, Manu Petit and Marc Overmars.

"These are the guys who have given me the passes. All I have had to do is put the ball in the back of the net. This would not have happened that quickly without them."

Henry went on to score 226 goals for Arsenal, netting for the final time in the 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough on February 3, 2007. Four months later he left for Barcelona, but Henry will always be an 'Arsenal man'.

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News

Wenger - The day Wright beat Bastin

Arsene Wenger has hailed Ian Wright’s impact at Arsenal and says he was “ready to die to score a goal”.

The legendary striker eclipsed Cliff Bastin to become the club’s record scorer on September 13, 1997 when he scored a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers.

Wenger remembers the day well and says it was a great moment for Wright and every fan of the club.

“He chased that record,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “Like every striker he said, ‘I don’t care about the goals’, but he only thought about that.

“I was very happy for him because he was a highly dedicated and motivated player. He was ready to die to score a goal.

“He is a special story in our game as well. He was a guy who came to the top level very late and to achieve what he achieved is absolutely fantastic.

“On the day you could see that he was extremely happy when he scored the goal, but we were all with him. He will remain one of the great players of Arsenal’s history.”

Interview

‘I grew up watching Wrighty at Highbury’

She established herself as one of the greats of the women’s game - and while growing up, it was another Arsenal legend that Alex Scott idolised.

The defender first joined us when she was eight, and would regularly watch us in action at Highbury.

“We used to have a section at Highbury, so I used to go and watch every single game that I could,” she told Arsenal Player. “I still remember when Wrighty scored the record goal and he took off the shirt with the number on. I remember him running around and me jumping up and down. 

“I absolutely loved those Highbury days. I was just that young kid, like anyone else, who loved football but I was part of this huge football club and I actually got to go to live games. It was just a dream for me. 

“I grew up and I still say that Wrighty’s been my favourite player because his smile is so infectious and you could see how much he loved the game. I suppose that’s what resonated with me, that I know how lucky I’ve been. 

“Football’s given me so much in my life and every time I step on that football pitch, that’s something that I try to express, that I’m so thankful, I love what I’m doing. I suppose that’s what I always saw in Wrighty. 

“They say sometimes to never meet your heroes, but Wrighty is absolutely the same guy that you see on the pitch as off it. I think that’s how it should be with everyone and I suppose that I live my life by those same values. I don’t change, I try and treat others how I want to be treated, and I suppose that when I look at my life I feel so fortunate that I’ve got to do this amazing job.

“ I don’t even know how I can call it a job. I’ve got to see so many things, and travel to meet so many people. What you see is just someone who’s just loving life.”

 

News

Ian Wright's ultimate five-a-side team

During his stellar career, Arsenal legend Ian Wright appeared alongside some of the finest players ever to play the game.

From his seven-year spell at Arsenal to his 33 England caps, the prolific forward made an instant impression wherever he went and was helped by some of biggest names in the sport.

So who makes Wrighty's ultimate five-a-side team? Click the Play button above to find out and then check out the following: