As captain of England, Billy Wright was blazing a trail almost 50 years before David Beckham.
Captain of England, married to a pop star, endorsing hair products - Billy Wright was blazing a trail almost 50 years before David Beckham.
If England’s current skipper can match Wright’s 105 caps - a record 90 of them as leader - he can consider himself the equal of one of his country’s greatest players.
Although the enduring image of the "Ironbridge Rocket" (after the Shropshire town where he was born) is of a no-nonsense centre-half, Wright began as a centre-forward and won his first 60 England caps at right-half, before converting to defence.
When he first arrived at Molineux, he struggled to make an impression. Manager Major Frank Buckley was initially reluctant to gamble on a youngster lacking height and shorter on talent than his peers, but his faith was rewarded.
Wright burst into the team during the war and in 13 glorious years for Wolves after peace resumed, won three League titles and an FA Cup.
Wright made his England debut against Scotland in 1947 and was captain through three unsuccessful World Cup campaigns. He was the first player in the world to make 100 international appearances and the outstanding England defender of his generation - strong, unflappably calm and never booked in almost 650 games. His loyalty, dedication and bravery became the stuff of legend.
Off the pitch, Wright was arguably Britain’s first football superstar. He became a household name, for both his exploits in the game and his marriage to Joy Beverley of the chart-topping Beverley Sisters. "It’s easy to forget just how idolised he was," says George Best.
After retiring, Wright had a disappointing stint as Arsenal manager, before working as a television sport executive in the Midlands. He died in 1994, but a giant statue of him still greets visitors to Molineux.
"England has had no better or more loyal a servant," said team-mate Sir Tom Finney. "Billy was as solid as a rock. He was also a nice guy."
Born: 6 February 1924, Ironbridge
Clubs: Wolves 1946-59, 541 appearances, 16 goals
Honours: League Championship 1954, 1958, 1959; FA Cup 1949; Footballer of the Year 1952
England: 105 appearances, 3 goals