MARK BRIGHT calls it a journey.
The easy bit, in his autobiography From Foster Care to Footballer, is his career playing up front for Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday.
Reaching FA Cup finals with Palace in 1990 then with Wednesday in 1993 are a walk down memory lane.
The other stuff, the sections devoted to his childhood struggles in care homes, are a real eye-opener.
Back in the 1980s, when Palace were in the old Second Division, the pen pics in opposition programmes often referred to “Bright, the Barnardo’s boy”.
Beyond that, nobody at Palace knew too much about the forward signed, initially on loan, from Leicester City in 1986.
His book, neatly stitched together by his ghost writer and friend Kevin Brennan, takes cares of that.
In time, as the passages in his story carry greater weight, Bright’s story will inspire generations.
As part of a distressing trawl to the start of life in Stoke, he requested the social security reports from his childhood to jog his memory.
It is quite the ordeal. He recounts the day his biological mother left a note to say she could no longer take care of her kids and it was the turn of her estranged husband.
“I mean, who does that?” Bright, asked rhetorically in one interview this week. Who does that, indeed.
At the age of six he would run an after-school gauntlet with his brother, two little black kids dodging bricks and stones thrown before they reached the safety of the lollipop lady.
Bright, 57, does not remember this, but the racial slurs continued well into his career at Selhurst Park.
There were times during home games in the mid-1980s when a lone voice in the Arthur Wait Stand would target an opposition black player and holler: “Trigger, trigger, trigger… ”
It provoked the response — ‘shoot that n****r, shoot the b*****d, shoot, shoot, shoot…” — from a tiny knot of Palace fans.
It was all a bit baffling to me, who grew up idolising Tony Finnigan, Andy Gray, John Salako, Ian Wright, and Brighty. More than 30 years on, it still rankles.
It was during that period, when Bright’s career at Palace got going, that he took one of his sisters to see if his childhood memories were for real.
He knocked on the door of his paternal father after he sent a letter to his son at Selhurst Park.
Remarkably, as they sat down to try to unravel his complicated and distressing upbringing, his new partner claimed it was “too upsetting” for them to be in the house.
Bright did not go back. By then he was making good on his promise to his geography teacher Mr Arkle to become a professional footballer.
Those long days working full-time 6am-3pm, followed by the hours in the gym with Port Vale’s legendary figurehead John Rudge, were paying off.
At Palace he would instruct apprentices to sit in the draughty stands and count the number of headers he won, the number of crosses and the number of goalscoring chances he had.
On the bus after away games, he ate his own pre-cooked pasta instead of the traditional fish and chip supper picked up on the way out of the stadium.
He was only 24 when Steve Coppell signed him for Palace, but he was mature beyond his years.
Bright was a major influence on Wright’s early career, shaping and moulding the forward during the first few seasons of their partnership.
Although Wright was the extrovert and had raw ability, Bright was the most consistent and reliable of the two at Palace.
That is often forgotten as Wright went on to achieve so much with Arsenal and England.
Bright will appreciate the sentiment, but the purpose and motivation behind this book is not about the plaudits.
After 40 years in the game, he just wanted to share his journey.
IT'S A FINE ART, FRANK
FRANK LAMPARD’S no-nonsense approach to fining players at Chelsea has its origins in last season’s lawless approach.
Maurizio Sarri’s ill-disciplined regime at Chelsea’s training ground set the tone for a chaotic season under the Italian’s leadership.
Lampard, fully briefed on a number of players testing the patience of training-ground staff, made a statement at the start of the season.
Some of the fines — £20,000 for missing the start of training, or £500 per minute for missing the start of a team meeting — seem heavy-handed.
Judging by results, it is working.
PEP HAS TO GET IT WRITE
INSTEAD of writing a letter to “big boss” Mike Riley, Pep Guardiola should be using this international break to work out another way of playing Liverpool.
Manchester City were sploshed at Anfield on Sunday — and it had very little to do with referee Michael Oliver.
Guardiola’s wide-open approach, playing football at warp-speed in the opening spell, was brutally exposed on the break by Fabinho, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
Pep’s principles are to be admired but there is nothing wrong with having a Plan B.
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