I’VE always had a lot of time for Ian Wright.
He was a great footballer and his take on the game is always direct and honest. But this time, he’s talking nonsense about Jack Wilshere.
Wright went in to bat for Wilshere after the furore which surrounded the Arsenal victory bus parade through North London in which various derogatory songs about Spurs were sung.
Also on display as the bus made its slow journey through the streets was a well-known beer brand, gripped in the players’ hands and very obviously on show for everyone to see, including thousands of impressionable young kids.
Wright has no problem with any of that. He defends Wilshire and explains that the only mistake he made was to allow the beer cans to be seen. In his day, they were stashed on the lower decks and nobody was the wiser.
That was in a different era even if Wright’s days as a footballer are still relatively fresh in the memory and he really was pushing the limits of his credibility when he said it was fine for Wilshere to sing abusive songs and to be visibly drunk in public.
“I have absolutely no problem with what Jack did on the bus during Arsenal’s FA Cup parade on Sunday. If you had plucked any one of those supporters who was cheering the team in Islington and put them on the bus, they would have behaved the same way,” he said.
Of course, any fan dropped onto the Arsenal team bus celebrating an FA Cup win would go crazy, particularly if had been toasting the Gunners’ victory liberally. But Wilshere is not a fan and any fan that made an attempt to board the bus would probably have been carted off for a night in the cells.
For years, we’ve been complaining about that very type of behaviour in fans and UEFA even want as far as alcohol-free stadiums to try reduce the potential for violence before during and after games.
What Wright seems to be saying is that it is okay to lower several cans of beer and make a fool of yourself and that this is justified because it shows that Wilshere is like the fans. He’s one of their own.
The three young Leicester players who now find themselves on the wrong end of a very poor choice made when they were in Thailand are rightly being hammered for their actions and, more importantly, their words.
But I would have to point out, I don’t see any Leicester City former greats in the media suggesting that he had no problem with what they were doing.
They were well out of order and remarkably stupid. They were also deeply offensive and have attracted condemnation from everyone. No doubt a suitable punishment will be handed out.
In Ian Wright’s eyes, Wilshere was just up to ‘high jinks’ as they used to call it in my day. It was a handy phrase and it covered a multitude.
If I might make a suggestion to Wilshere who has had a few runs-in like this before. If he wants to become the player he can be, he should take no more advice or encouragement from Ian Wright.
I’m not saying he should be a saint and I’m saying that a player who wins the FA Cup cannot enjoy the moment with a beer.
But this was something much more than that and these days, you simply cannot behave as you wish and expect to avoid criticism if you are in the public eye.