Football legend Ian Wright reveals stepfather used to assault mother

‘My brother used to cover my ears so you couldn’t hear it’: Football legend Ian Wright reveals how his terrifying pot-smoking stepfather used to assault his mother

  • Former England and Arsenal was speaking on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4
  • Wright was deserted by his real father Herbert at the age of 18 months
  • The 56-year-old star has revealed he grew up terrified of his 6ft 4in stepfather 

Former footballer Ian Wright reveals today the shocking details of his tough childhood – tearfully recalling how a brother would cover his ears to mask his mother’s anguished cries as she was assaulted by his stepfather.

The former England and Arsenal player turned broadcaster speaks openly of regularly witnessing the violent abuse of his mother Nesta, now 90, in a highly emotional edition of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4.

The 56-year-old father of eight highlights his choice of Tina Turner’s song River Deep, Mountain High to compare his mother’s ordeal with the documented abuse suffered by the singer at the hands of her husband Ike.

The former England and Arsenal player turned broadcaster speaks openly of regularly witnessing the violent abuse of his mother Nesta, now 90, in a highly emotional edition of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Pictured: Ian with mother Nesta and his then wife Debbie in 2000

‘This record, when I hear it, takes me to a place of real anxiety,’ he says. ‘It’s a horrible tune for me. It would come on and my mum would just cry.’

Recalling her treatment, he adds: ‘She was 4ft 11in and he was 6ft 4in, and I would see him lift her and do stuff to her. 

‘I remember my brother Maurice, when my stepfather used to be really, really manhandling my mum, my brother used to cover my ears so you couldn’t hear it. When this song comes on, it just takes me back to that place.’

Asked by presenter Lauren Laverne why he chose the track, the Match Of The Day pundit says: ‘I have to own it and deal with it, as hard as it is. It is part of my life.’

The star, who was deserted by his real father Herbert at the age of 18 months, reveals that he grew up terrified of his stepfather. 

‘It wasn’t a loving place to be,’ he says.

‘My stepfather was a very big, growly-voiced, gambling, weed-smoking, angry man who frightened me. 

‘All I have known from a young age was my stepfather, and I was never, anywhere near, somebody that he liked.’


The star, who was deserted by his real father Herbert at the age of 18 months, reveals that he grew up terrified of his stepfather

Wright (pictured celebrating a goal in the 1993 FA Cup Final) blames his childhood experiences for becoming arrogant at the height of his success, admitting he had hurt those closest to him

Wright reveals that the violent atmosphere at home would influence his behaviour on the pitch. ‘When I played football, as soon as it got to a point where I couldn’t deal with it, I would lash out.’

During his interview, Wright even apologises to listeners for turning into ‘this bumbling, crying guy’. 

He struggles for words as he recalls a defining moment with his real father, at the age of 11 or 12. 

He said he was ‘beyond himself with excitement’ at the prospect of his father’s visit after he promised to buy him some new trousers.

Wright said the hours he spent waiting for his father, who had promised to turn up at the family’s South London tower block at 9.30am but arrived at 5.15pm, changed him forever. 

‘I just remember the emotions,’ he says. 

‘If he didn’t turn up on that day, I would never ever have had anything to do with him again. I have made sure I don’t have to wait for people for me to progress.’

Wright blames his childhood experiences for becoming arrogant at the height of his success, admitting he had hurt those closest to him. He reveals that undergoing therapy has helped him deal with his anger. 

‘The therapy was the best thing that ever happened to me because I realised that a lot of it stemmed from my youth,’ he recalls.

  • Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 today at 11.15am. 

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