In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, over the last few games, Wright has been as important a player for us as any other. That’s despite the fact that he’s certainly short of goals-four in half a season isn’t a great strike rate-and it isn’t as if the side’s not set up to provide him with the right sort of service because the two players with the most assists for us this season are our attacking full backs. In fact, if my memory serves me right, three of those goals were headers set up by Curtis Obeng, not to mention the glorious opportunity he had to claim three points in the last minute at Braintree.
However, to judge Wright on his strike rate is to ignore the massive contribution he makes to the side. He holds the ball up superbly, as was shown in his massive performance last Saturday against Gateshead, when he led the line in the first half and worked hard to retain possession as the game changed in the second. The working over he gives out to centre backs also wears them down, to the benefit of his team mates in the latter stages of the game, a point Dean Saunders made at Bath as we grabbed two late goals against a flagging back four. He occupies defenders like no Wrexham striker I’ve seen since Jim Steel, but unlike the redoubtable Scot, he’s deceptively quick, able to outpace defenders round the outside.
His direct, driving runs at the heart of the opposing back four have become one of my favourite features of this season, and he’s able to provide end product at the end of it, as his subtle lay-off to Obeng to tee up the equaliser against Darlington showed. Having drawn defenders to him with a headlong charge to the edge of the box, a cleverly disguised lay-off put the full back in a position to deliver for Adrian Cieslewicz’s valuable strike.
In fact, that match offered up another admirable quality in Wright’s play. In a bad day at the office for Wrexham, which looked like ending in defeat, he and Obeng, along with second half sub Glen Little, were just about the only creative players who were able to replicate their usual form in the face of adversity, and such fortitude was admirable; fill a side with players who stand up to be counted when the game’s going against them and you won’t go far wrong.
The goalless target man is certainly not unknown in the game, and can fulfil a very important role. The French side which won the World Cup in 1998 fielded Stephane Guivarc’h throughout, despite the fact that he didn’t score in the entire tournament and had a clumsy style of play which hardly blended seamlessly with the artistry of Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane! Well, not in an aesthetic sense, but his ability to hold the ball up meant that, although he was toothless in the box, those creative geniuses were able to get involved with play much closer to the opposing goal. And anyway, the end justifies the means: when some twit at the Daily Mail derided Guivarc’h, he should have simply shown him his World Cup winner’s medal! (Although his description of the paper’s actually a pretty accurate riposte too!)
Likewise, Emile Heskey has been rather harshly maligned, a victim of the post-modern invasion of cynicism into the game, and the media in general. Heskey might be the easy target who launched a thousand lazy “list show” segments, but he always occupied defenders and worked ceaselessly for his team. Michael Owen was generally felt to have enjoyed the best England form of his life in tandem with Heskey, and anyway, how goals did Richard Bacon score away to Germany anyway?
Wrexham had their own highly successful version of Heskey, in terms of output at least, in the early 1990s. Steve Watkin might primarily be remembered for his winner against Arsenal, but he put in years of devoted service for Wrexham, often for the benefit of Gary Bennett. Bennett was always quick to credit the superb spade work Watkin put in for him, and although Watkin’s strike rate tailed off once we were promoted to the Third Division (it’s easy to forget that in the 1992-3 promotion season he top scored, comfortably outdoing Bennett) when you’re getting fifty goals from your front two it doesn’t really matter how they’re divided up!
Of course, it would be great if Wright could knock a few more in. There’s always going to be a temptation to leave out a striker if he isn’t getting on the scoresheet once he has a couple of quiet games, and although he ought to be more sympathetic than most to the plight of the striker, Andy Morrell won’t be immune to such sentiments. But as a striker he’ll also appreciate the many positive aspects of Wright’s contribution to his team. Not least when he’s sparing the old feller’s legs by doing some running for him!