|Player Sponsor||FC United Unoffical Fans Forum - Left click to link to website|
|Kit Sponsor(s)||Jules Spencer
|Date of birth||29-10-1985|
|Place of birth||-|
|Previous clubs||Maine Road, Griffin Growlers|
On first impressions, FC United's supporters player of the 2007/08 season may come across as a shy, softly-spoken Wythenshawe lad, but beneath the ever-present smile, Jerome Wright possesses a strong mind way beyond his years.
In his short playing career, the pacey left winger has tasted both the highs and the lows of the beautiful game, including a frustrating knee injury that nearly wrecked his career and an appearance for England at last summer's World Cup (more of that later). Through it all, the laidback Mancunian has maintained his positive outlook on life and it's easy to see why he has become a popular figure in the dressing room.
"One of the main reasons I came to FC was because of spirit amongst the players. I had the option to go to Montrose in Scotland or a few other teams in the North West Counties League, like Curzon Ashton, but once I'd seen the spirit in the dressing room I wanted to be part of it.
After joining FC from division one rivals Maine Road in December 2006, Wright made a somewhat spluttering start in the red shirt out. Due to a suspension, postponed games and being cup-tied, Wright couldn't make his debut until United's 3-0 win against Atherton Collieries, followed by a decent showing in the 2-1 win at Bacup. But that was just a taste of things to come.
Wright has been supported throughout his footballing career by his close-knit family and in particular his mum, Karen. While studying at Rackhouse Primary School in Northern Moor, Wright played five-a-side football with his friends but couldn't take part in competitive action until he was eight years old. At that point, one of Karen's friends was organising a local boys team called Unity and Wright was happy to get involved.
"That experience really made me enjoy football because we had a pretty decent side, so we were winning cups and doing really well. That always makes you want to have more success."
Back then, Wright had dreams of turning out for a top-flight team, speeding down the left wing and terrorising full-backs with his pace. And his inspiration for learning his trade on the left wing? Ryan Giggs.
"I used to idolise him when I was a kid. I'd get the same boots as him every time he got new ones and even copied all his hair cuts. That was the reason I wanted to play out wide. Giggs has always had flair and skill and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. It's funny, because I've never really told Rhodri (Giggs) that his brother is the reason why I play on the wing."
The decision to stick to that position was one that paid dividends almost straight away. Aged just 8, he and pal Neil Chappell were asked to join Oldham Athletic's junior team - an offer that blew Wright away.
"I was only a kid and they took me and Neil down to Boundary Park. It was amazing. We saw the first-team players training and would watch them play on a Saturday. Until then, I'd always drawn a clear distinction between me playing football with my mates and then professionals playing on TV. But, there the pros were in front of me."
Fired up by this inspiration, Wright ploughed his way through the youth sides at Latics, gaining valuable experience with older age groups by the time he was 16. "I was lucky because my managers would always test me at the higher level to see if I could cope. I've always been a small player so it was hard to make the step up through the age groups, but you just try to play the best you can.
"Oldham was a great place to learn from me. You're working with coaches who have been there and done it, so you're always keen to listen and learn. If you do what they ask of you, you're never going to go wrong. I've always tried to stick to that.
"I played against Wayne Rooney in one game and we played in tournaments in Scotland and Germany over my six years at the club and I won player of the tournament a few times. Then we would be at award ceremonies getting presentations from the Oldham first-team players. It was fantastic inspiration when you're young."
Despite the accolades, Wright was released by Oldham when he was 16. "It was one of those daunting situations where the manager takes in the players from the training ground one by one and they tell you if you've got a YTS. They told me I was skilful, but didn't have the necessary strength to make it as a professional. I remember being so deflated and just getting into my mum's car and crying. It's strange to think back to that time."
However, things were to take a dramatic turn for the better for Wright. Two days after the Oldham knock-back, he tried out for a Greater Manchester team who competed in an inter-county tournament in Scotland. Under Wright's captaincy, the team finished third in the contest, and it was enough to earn the youngster a trial with an England junior side in London a few weeks later.
"There were three of us who were selected to try out for the England team. I didn't make it, but the whole thing was amazing to take part in and it gave me a huge confidence lift after leaving Oldham."
With his focus back on his studies, Wright was able to combine his love of the game with a sensible career plan and enrolled on a one-year sports studies and coaching course at South Trafford College. Meanwhile, Chappell persuaded him to try out at Maine Road, and it was former FC United reserve boss Chris Simms - then manager of Maine Road - who got Wright to sign up.
"When I saw their team spirit, I had no hesitation. I was really surprised that I went straight into the first team. It was more physical than what I had experienced before, but I expected that. You learned more as you went on. Simmsy is one of the best people I've worked with in football. He has always been around to look out for me and I really appreciate his input."
Wright earned the club's player of the season award for 2002/03 in his first year with Maine Road, who finished third and set off with promotion hopes the following year. But disaster struck as the team were putting in their final preparations for the 2003/04 season. In a training game, he suffered a serious knee injury, damaging his cruciate ligaments in a blow that would keep him on the sidelines for a shattering 18-month period. In that time, he underwent two knee operations and had to remain patient while he regained his fitness.
"It was very frustrating because I just wanted to kick a ball even though people told me not to. I went to watch the first team play every week when I was out injured and couldn't wait to get back."
By the time Wright did reappear, Maine Road had won promotion back to the North West Counties League Division One and were halfway through a campaign, which ended with them finishing in eight spot.
"At first I was very anxious about my injury. They introduced me in to games bit by bit but I had to be patient before I got my fitness back. I will always be grateful to Maine Road and (former manager) Derek Barber for sticking by me through my injury. I will always remember what they did for me."
As FC United were enjoying promotion to Maine Road's division in their inaugural season, Wright was gearing up for a very different challenge - trying out to represent England at Germany 2006. He joined 3,000 other hopefuls in a series of trials for a six-a-side competition that took place in Cologne before the Ukraine v Switzerland last 16 game. Amazingly, Wright's talents earned him a place in the squad of eight representing England managed by Jamie Redknapp.
"All the teams taking part were staying in the same hotel on this six-day trip, which was good, except no one could understand each other. Harry Redknapp came to watch us but he was always on his phone, so our pleas for a trial at Portsmouth fell on deaf ears.
"We finished third in the tournament, which was good considering some of the other countries had former internationals in their team. It's my best moment in football to date."
As well as the memories, it also gave Wright an edge on the competition when it came to pre-season training for 2006/7. He scored nine goals in 25 appearances for Maine Road before moving across to Gigg Lane.
"All the Maine Road players were looking forward to playing against FC at Stalybridge and to have our own fans there as well as the United supporters was just amazing. To have that week-in, week-out now is like a dream come true.
"One other strange thing is watching FC games on Channel M and FCUM TV. My younger brother, Kailum and two younger sisters, Faith and Rayah love watching it. They think I'm famous.