How Attleborough Town Football Club put Danny on the Wright path
Danny Wright has played in the Football League, scored a penalty at Wembley and been involved in some big FA Cup shocks – it’s a career that many would envy.
And yet, had it not been for the grounding provided by his early days in Attleborough Town’s colours, it could quite conceivably have been very different for the centre-forward.
Wright, who attended Attleborough High School, spent his teenage years up against some tough and uncompromising Anglian Combination defenders. He had to grow up – and quickly.
“I played for Attleborough’s Under-16s, then into the third team and I worked my way up from there,” said the current Solihull Moors frontman.
“It was a good background into men’s football. Had I been in a professional club’s academy, there would have been a lot of U23s football and you might not play any senior stuff until the age of 21 or 22.
“It made me wiser, definitely more streetwise. It was tough, these were grown men and I had to grow up pretty quickly.
“It made me who I am. I was 16 playing against big centre-halves, some of them trying to kick me up in the air.
“I’d play Sunday football for Attleborough as well – it was probably even more physical in that. My whole weekend would be playing for the club.
“You’ve got to have ability to make it in the pro game of course, but you need that bit of steel as well.
“Even now centre-halves will try to intimidate, but because of my early years, I’d like to think I’m now able to intimidate them!”
Wright has gone on to play hundreds of non-league and Football League games down the years, yet he still remembers the first time he crossed the white line in senior men’s football.
“I was playing for Attleborough A – that was the club’s third team – against Hingham,” he reflected.
“It had an added edge for me because I’d grown up for a while in Hingham and a lot of the lads remembered me.
“They were top of the league and we were probably mid-table, but we won 1-0 and I set up the winning goal.
“There was a real competitive edge in that game and it gave me the confidence to kick on.”
Eventually, Wright outgrew Station Road and he moved on to Dereham Town of the Eastern Counties League Premier Division.
He continued to flourish under the management of former Brentford, Gillingham and Manchester City frontman Rob Taylor, scoring 30 goals during his debut campaign at Step 5.
Another 14 followed in 2006/07 before an upwardly mobile Histon came calling – almost certainly to the delight of Diss Town.
In four appearances for Dereham against the Tangerines, Wright bagged five goals.
“I had a good record against Diss,” said the 35-year-old. “They were a big side in that league with Robert Fleck in charge.
“I think maybe they were coming to the end of an era with a really good side when I played against them, so it was probably a good time to be facing them.
“I enjoyed it at Dereham and I learned a lot from Rob Taylor, just as I did from the likes of Steve Culyer, Aide Binks and David Hammond at Attleborough – they were important managers for me.”
While working as a carpenter, Wright helped Histon to win the Conference South title in his first season, and was then a key component in their FA Cup victories over Swindon Town and Leeds United in 2008. He scored the only goal of the tie against Swindon while being a menace for the Leeds defence alongside strike partner Jack Midson.
He then embarked on an almost decade-long stint in the National League, playing for Cambridge United, Wrexham, Forest Green Rovers, Gateshead United and Kidderminster Harriers before finally – after several near misses – he reached the Football League with Cheltenham Town in 2015/16, aged 31.
“We won the FA Trophy at Wrexham and I scored in the shootout, but we missed out on the title and promotion despite getting 98 points,” said Wright, whose brother Steven currently plays for Attleborough, while nephews Reuben and Malachi are part of the youth set-up at the club.
“The Fleetwood side that beat us to it had a certain Jamie Vardy up front and they just pipped us.
“When that happens you do start to question if you are ever going to win it and get into the Football League.
“A lot of the clubs I played for have been full-time in the National League so you were still a professional, but you don’t have that accolade of being in the Football League.
“I still retained that hunger and desire to get there and thankfully we managed it at Cheltenham. We got 101 points, so we beat that tally at Wrexham.
“To have those couple of years in League Two was fantastic, and I scored a few goals as well.”
With his game-time becoming limited at Whaddon Road, Wright opted to return to the National League in 2018 with a Solihull side who have aspirations of reaching the Football League in the near future.
He is now in the autumn of his career, but there are no plans to hang up the boots just yet.
“I want to keep going for as long as I can. I am not used to a life without football,” he admitted.
“I am probably fitter now than when I was younger. Back then with the likes of Attleborough and Dereham, it was more social and there was a bit more of a drinking culture.
“It is a different ball game when you are getting paid to play at a decent level – you have to be professional.
“As long as I’m feeling this good and staying injury free, I think I’ve got a few more seasons left in me.
“Hopefully some of those can be in the Football League with Solihull. We finished second last season – another second place finish for me – but we are getting closer.
“It is a great club and I am loving playing for them. They have some big plans and it will not be long until they go up.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella