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I'm a Celebrity: Ian Wright: the story of his angry childhood and his inspirational teacher

The Match of the Day star shared a moving story with his campmates

ian wright camp
Diane Shipley
Senior Online Writer
4 December 2019
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In an emotional moment around the I'm a Celebrity campfire, retired football player Ian Wright paid tribute to the teacher who transformed his life. Ian grew up in a challenging environment, writing in his autobiography, A Life in Football, that his mother drank a lot while his stepfather was a "bully". Primary school teacher Sydney Pigden, who taught at Turnham Primary School in Brockley, South London, became a surrogate parent to young Ian, helping to keep him on the straight and narrow and encouraging his interest in football.

ian wright head down© Photo: Rex

Ian struggled to contain his emotions as he talked about his teacher

The 56-year-old recalled: "I was quite disruptive and I was always put outside the classroom, but then he put me in the library room and he started to talk to me about behaving myself. He was somebody that I could talk to all the time and tell him about what was going on at home, and then once he realised that I could play football that’s when it really kicked in. He used to say the beautiful goals are the goals that goalkeepers can't see." The Match of the Day star went on: "When I used to score goals at Arsenal I would always think about him… I can't put a price on what Mr Pigden has done for me He’s the first man in my life that showed me love. As a teacher, he gave me that little bit extra bit of tutorship that I needed."

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ian wright smiling© Photo: WENN

The former footballer had an impressive career before becoming a TV star

Ian then put his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes before adding: "If it wasn't for him I know I wouldn't be where I am. I think about him every day." The dad-of-eight's career highs included a Premier League title, two FA Cups, one League Cup, and one European Cup Winners’ Cup.

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Sydney was a former Hurricane and Spitfire pilot who took part in the 1945 Victory flypast over Buckingham Palace, yet he described Ian's England debut as the "proudest moment" of his life. He had no family of his own, having lost his wife when he was just 46 years old and with their only child having died in infancy. He and Ian were reunited in 2010 and remained close until his death two years ago at the age of 95.

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