2021 is only a few days old and we’ve already got a comeback story to enjoy.
33-year-old TV star Mark Wright, who made his name as part of the cast of The Only Way Is Essex, has made his long-awaited return to competitive football after signing a deal with League Two’s Crawley Town – ten years after his last contract as a footballer.
Here’s all you need to know about Wright’s career so far.
For many casual football fans, Mark Wright wasn’t exactly a household name. Few really cared about his inclusion in 2016’s Soccer Aid, a charity match in aid of UNICEF, but he proved everyone wrong by the end of the game.
Managed by Sam Allardyce and Jose Mourinho and playing alongside legends like David Seaman, Jamie Carragher and Sol Campbell, Wright won the game’s man of the match award after netting a free-kick in a 3-2 win.
His status as ‘the celebrity who could actually play football’ turned Wright into somewhat of a cult hero for the event, and he was invited back in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Wright’s football pedigree should come as no surprise as he learned his craft in some of England’s biggest academies.
After a spell with Charlton, Wright’s career moved to the next level when he joined Tottenham, and he was a core part of the youth and reserve setup at White Hart Line until his release in 2005.
During his time with Spurs, Wright was so highly thought of that he actually captained his youth side.
His reputation as a leader earned him a step up to the reserve side, where he played alongside first-teamers like Jamie Redknapp and Helder Postiga.
Wright was earmarked for success, but saw his career take a turn for the worse when he turned 18.
Speaking to on his BBC documentary, Mark Wright: The Last Chance, Wright confessed that he chose the wrong path and ultimately threw his career away.
The left-back remembered how he left for a summer break and came back surprisingly overweight, having spent the summer partying and forgetting about his football.
His youth-team manager quickly grew concerned by Wright’s attitude, and he was eventually released from the club in 2005.
Wright began his senior career with Southend United and made his first appearance during a loan spell with Lewes.
His brightest spell came on loan with Crawley, and his form with the non-league side saw him earn a call-up to the England C team, representing the country at non-league level.
His international debut ended in defeat as England fell to Bosnia and Herzegovina in September 2008.
Wright’s love affair with Crawley began in the 2006/07 season. The team was in complete disarray and were docked ten points for entering administration, so relegation from the Conference National felt like a certainty.
Crawley were staring relegation in the face all season and could have gone down on the final day of the campaign, only for a goal from Wright (then on loan from Grays Athletic) to earn them a point and keep them up.
He left the club at the end of the campaign as a hero, but flitted around non-league before quitting in 2011 when his TV career took off.
Wright left football a decade ago but has often tried to be involved to some extent.
Back in 2017, Wright invested in non-league side Billericay Town, buying a 20% stake in the club.
Wright was even tipped to join the club as a player in 2020, when midfielder Jamie O’Hara publicly urged Wright to swap the celebrity life for a career in non-league.
A blast from the past here. Here’s Wright’s first interview with Tottenham from back in 2004.
Alongside the revelation of his love for Roberto Carlos and a good chicken tikka masala, Wright admitted that his favourite TV show was the top-flight highlight show ‘The Premiership’.
We get it, you wanted to be a footballer. You don’t need to lie to make yourself look better.