Legend in his own Wright: Newcastle Head Physio retires after 38 years
Written by Training Ground Guru — July 13, 2022
DEREK WRIGHT has spoken about his first week on civvy street after retiring as Newcastle United's Head Physio after 38 years.
The 63-year-old said his goodbyes to players and staff last week after announcing his retirement from the game. Wright grew up in Stanley in County Durham and joined Newcastle United in 1984, when Jack Charlton was manager. He went on to serve under 32 different permanent and interim managers.
“I said a proper goodbye on Friday, a personal goodbye, which was nice," Wright told the club’s official website. "I think I felt a bit better after that, rather than just disappearing. It was a chance for me to say thank you, and that I'll miss them, really. I felt better after doing that.
"The reaction I've had from people has been unbelievable. I’ve had to speak to a lot of people, message a lot of people, and it's been really busy. It's going to be a new chapter in my life.
"I've been so fortunate and had a wonderful career. There have been times where it's been stressful or things maybe haven't worked for the club or the team, but you have to keep going. You have to keep ploughing on, no matter what, and that's what I'll do for the rest of my time."
Wright left Stanley Grammar School at the age of 16 to join Arsenal as an apprentice footballer. It was during his two years at Highbury that he met Fred Street, the former England physio.
His first job was actually at Northumberland Miners' Rehabilitation Centre, before Street called him about a job at Fulham when he was 23. Former Arsenal and England striker Malcolm Macdonald was manager of the Cottagers at the time.
"I was looking after the first team, the youth team, reserve team,” Wright remembered. “I used to play for the reserves as well when they were short.
“I took my bag and if anybody got injured, I ran off the field, got the bag, ran back on the field, treated the player, and you could see the other players thinking, ‘What the hell is going on here?'"
In 1984, he was tempted back to the North East for a job with his beloved Newcastle United. England World Cup winner Jack Charlton was the boss.
"You could tell you were working for a big club with a big history," Wright said. "But you sort of get sucked in. The feeling straight away of how important it is. But people made me feel welcome."
He has had the chance to leave the club over the years, but has become a bona fide Newcastle United legend in his own right.
"I probably had the opportunity to leave on a number of occasions," he admitted. "I wanted to keep working and keep working here. I couldn't imagine me working at Manchester United or Manchester City. It just didn't appeal to me really.
"You do feel as if it's ingrained into your soul, really. It would have been very difficult to leave - it's been difficult to leave now, but it's the right time. I've always wanted to go on and on and on for as long as I could. "It's hard to describe. It gets under your skin, it gets into your blood.
"You think, 'We just might win something this year' - that tends to keep you going. And I think they will - we're not far from that now."
Now the club have new owners and a new Sporting Director, in Dan Ashworth, and are destined to go to another level.
"I think now, with the new owners and new investment, I'm probably leaving at the wrong time, but it's the circle of life.
"There's a fantastic future coming up here. The facility you'll probably end up getting is different to me trying to de-rust the multigym at Benwell with an oiling can when I first arrived.
“The idea was I wanted us, our medical department, to become the best, and no matter how hard it was at times or how difficult it was, I think the department now is fantastic. I'm quite happy and proud of where we eventually got to.”
What now beckons is a sustained period away from football for the first time in his adult life.
“It will always be part of me, and a part which I'm proud and honoured to have done," Wright said. "I'll never forget it. It will always be there. If I can get up all those stairs to the family enclosure, I'll be there with the boys.
"They said to me, ‘You'll have to learn all the words to the songs, Dad'. I went, 'I've heard the songs for the last 38 years. I know all the words to them, don't worry'."