With Palace locked at 2-2 against Oldham Athletic, Steve Coppell turned to his new weapon: ‘Virtual unknown Ian Wright’, as the newspaper match report termed it, who arrived on the scene with a bang, heading home Alan Irvine’s cross to give Palace a crucial three points.
Wright’s early years were spent in south London – Woolwich to be specific. His path was a tumultuous one, and despite trials with Southend and Brighton & Hove Albion (gulp) he failed to earn a professional contract. A spell in Chelmsford Prison followed, and while reprimanded he vowed to turn his life around.
An inspiring story like that can only be inspirational if the protagonist succeeds, and boy did Wright succeed. After signing for semi-professional Greenwich Borough, he was spotted by Crystal Palace after a tip-off from Dulwich Hamlet manager Billy Smith, and came to a trial at Selhurst Park. Steve Coppell took one look at the plucky centre-forward and signed the 21-year-old there and then.