If you’re not familiar with the YouTube clip of Ian Wright’s emotional reunion with his old school teacher Mr Pigden, it’s an absolute must-watch for football fans everywhere.
Shot a few years ago, the footage shows the Arsenal legend break down in tears after being brought back together with his former mentor, who he hadn’t seen in over twenty years.
Syd Pigden took the striker under his wing from an early age at Turnham Primary School in south east London, and showed faith in him when few others did.
As Wright recalls in the clip, Pigden helped him become the best footballer, and the best person, he could possibly be, and you can tell by his reaction just how important a figure he was in his life.
It’s a very touching moment, and still just as powerful a few years on. Watch the footage again below:
Speaking to loaded at the launch of football social app yakatak, Ian Wright revealed the story behind the viral clip, and told us where Mr Pigden is now.
Thinking back to his time at school, Wright told us: “When I was six or seven, I had problems paying attention in the classroom. As soon as I didn’t get it, I lost my focus. I don’t know what they call it… ADHD? Is that what it is? Anyway, I used to be put outside the classroom a lot, and I remember he would go past and see me out there a lot.”
He added: “Then one day, he saw me and said, “You’re outside the classroom again?” I was really scared of him, and he went inside and spoke to our teacher. From that day, he took me into the library and I worked just with him. He almost gave me one on one tuition. He taught me how to read properly and he taught me how to write properly. We used to read those books Roderick The Red, Gregory The Green and Benjamin The Blue and all that sort of stuff. He gave me responsibilities too. I used to collect all the registers from the classes, I was the milk monitor.”
The Arsenal man went on to say: “He gave me this confidence, and then I went back into the classroom a different person. Then once he realised I could play football, he really took me under his wing. He taught me about Jimmy Greaves, and he was the first one who taught me about not blasting it when you get close to the goal keeper. I used to get close to the keeper and try to blast it through him, and he was the one who said: “No, Jimmy Greaves passes it into the side netting.”
“So I had that relationship with him from a young age. I still saw him when I went to my secondary school, and then after I went to Palace. I remember when I first came out of Chelmsford prison, where I went for car driving offences, he came to see me. So once I got in at Crystal Palace he used to come and see me play. When I played for Arsenal and England I invited him to come and watch me. He was the first real positive male figure in my life.”
Speaking about the famous footage of the pair’s reunion, Wright said: “The reason why I reacted like I did [in the clip] is that somebody told me he was dead and I lost contact with him. Someone said he’d died, and he hadn’t. He’s actually still alive. He’s 93 now and he’s in a home. I pop in to see him every now and again, but he doesn’t recognise too much. Every now and then he gets a glimpse and he’ll remember. But he’s the person who showed me a bit of love when I needed it.”
It’s a very moving clip, and Wright’s relationship with his old schoolmaster remains one of the most emotional stories in modern football.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.