Obituary: King’s Lynn footballing legend Mick Wright
PUBLISHED: 13:01 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:31 12 December 2019
He didn’t play football for the money. He pulled on his boots for the sheer love of the game.
Mick Wright, who has passed away at the age of 77, held the British record for playing 1,152 times for a single team.
After signing for King's Lynn as a centre back at the age of 19, he helped propel the club on its legendary FA Cup run during the 61/62 season, scoring the winning goal against Coventry before Lynn lost to Everton in the third round.
At his playing peak he was earning £25 a week, although his average wage was £12, plus an extra £2 if the Linnets won or £1 for a draw.
"I didn't play for the money," he said in his later years. "I played because I loved football, as simple as that. If you wanted to get rich you didn't play for King's Lynn."
While it never brought him riches, Mr Wright believed he was born to become a footballer.
The game dominated his life from boyhood. He played on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, while all he ever wanted from Santa was a new pair of boots.
Born in Moulton, Lincs, he played for Newmarket Town and even had a few trials with West Ham's youth team.
He was a rising star by the time he caught the eye of the then Linnets manager Len Richley, who used a Subbuteo board to show his players moves.
Long after the final whistle blew on his career at The Walks, Mr Wright would sometimes wonder what might have been. But the grass was never greener than on Tennyson Road.
"I always believed I could play a higher level, sometimes I think I didn't fulfil my full potential," he once said. "I wonder what would've happened if I left and gone elsewhere, I think more about it now."
While he never received a single booking throughout his career, football wasn't always as kind to Mr Wright.
He suffered four broken legs, countless broken noses and other injuries including a ruptured spleen during his 20-year playing career.
He only left the pitch under protest after an opponent's elbow in the side left him bleeding profusely. He nearly lost a kidney and spent weeks in hospital after that knock.
Mr Wright carried on regardless in later life, despite a heart attack and a stroke. He ran the Granary Antiques Centre, tucked away down a cobbled alley off Lynn's Queen Street, with his wife Ruth.
Asked if she felt like a glamorous footballer's wife during his glory days on the pitch, Mrs Wright replied: "No, not really. With four children to look after I felt more like a footballer's widow."
Despite their father's passion for the beautiful game, his children Shaunagh, Karen, Lloyd and Niall did not share his love of sport.
Former team mate and Linnets manager Keith Rudd asked West Norfolk council to award Mr Wright the Freedom of the Borough in recognition of his record-breaking achievements on the pitch.
The matter was referred to the Local Government Ombudsman, after the council dismissed the nomination without discussing it.
When the ombudsman found in Mr Wright's favour and waved the yellow flag, the council agreed to discuss the nomination.
It then rejected it because it did not fit its "previously published criteria".
Mr Wright shrugged off his final sporting injury, saying he was disappointed but not bitter.
Beforehand, he admitted: "It wouldn't break my heart if I didn't get it, I had my fun playing football."
Mr Wright will be honoured by either a minute's applause or a minute's silence at The Walks before Saturday's FA Trophy game against Dover Athletic.
Talks are also under way regarding a permanent memorial at the ground where he was known as Mr King's Lynn.
A club spokesman said his loyalty to the Linnets might never be repeated.