Our Billy

Trust your intuition and success will follow

If Billy had been trotted out as a comic-strip hero, he would have been ridiculed as being too good to be true. Blond and handsome, personable and clean-living, he was England's football captain and the first man from any country to win a century of international caps. He led the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers, one of the most successful sides of the Forties and Fifties, to all the top domestic honours and he captivated Britain by marrying one of its best loved pop stars, the flaxen-haired beauty Joy Beverley (the middle Beverley Sister). 

 

Billy was a paragon of sporting and family virtue. He exuded wholesome, uncomplicated enthusiasm, was a slave to the work ethic and modest to a fault. And, to burnish the spotless persona still further, he had risen to eminence only after overcoming two heart-tugging early setbacks: being reduced to tears when written off as 'too small' at the age of 15 and later bouncing back from an injury which had threatened to end his career almost before it had begun. 

Despite his mastery of the fierce, perfectly timed tackle and a prodigiously spring-heeled leap that lifted his solid 5ft 8in frame high above towering opponents in aerial duels, those defects might have reduced Wright to the crowded ranks of soccer's also-rans. But what gave him his edge, particularly at his best after his mid-1950s conversion to centre-half, was a keen footballing brain which enabled him to 'read' the game, putting him one move ahead of most men around him. He would break up countless attacks through intelligent interceptions, rescue stricken colleagues by perceptive covering
and remain calm in the most frenzied of crises.

As a skipper he was no bullying martinet, eschewing unseemly exhortation in favour of quiet motivation, declaring that 'captaincy is the art of leadership, not dictatorship', invariably setting an impeccable personal example in terms of both effort and sportsmanship.

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By the age of 24 he was skippering both club and country. In 1949 he led Wolves to triumph in the FA Cup final against Leicester and a year later he took England into the first of three consecutive World Cup tournaments. That was in Brazil, where the team performed badly, especially in a humiliating 1-0 defeat by the United States, but Wright, at least, survived with reputation intact. Although his form dipped in the 1950-51 season, he proved so resilient that he was named Footballer of the Year in 1952, then in 1954 captained Wolves to their first League Championship 

That summer brought a turning point in the Wright career when he switched to the centre of defence during the World Cup finals in Switzerland after an injury to Syd Owen. It was apparent that he had found his true niche, his new role making light of his ball-playing limitations and emphasising his more solid qualities. In addition, it conserved the 30-year-old's energy and, no doubt, lengthened his playing span considerably. 

During mid-decade Wolves, now managed by Stan Cullis, were challenged only by Manchester United's Busby Babes as England's finest and Wright's contribution was enormous, notably in several high-profile friendlies with Continental clubs which helped to blaze the British trail into Europe.