05 December 2019 00:34
Get the biggest I'm a Celebrity stories by email Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email Ian Wright was just 22 when he met his first wife Debbie and "swept her off her feet". Then a footballer with Crystal Palace, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here star Ian grew up down the road from Debbie on estate in south east London. And a chance meeting following his split from the mother of his eldest three children, Sharon Phillips, led to their first date. They fell in love hard and fast, with Debbie heralding Ian her "knight in shining armour".
"To me he was perfect - kind, generous and the most devoted husband you could ever ask for," she told the Daily Mail in 2008. (Image: Daily Mirror) (Image: Sunday Mirror) But just three years later Debbie's world came crashing down when it emerged Ian had been having an affair with a woman he met through his TV work. I felt sick," she said. "Minutes later Ian himself called me. He told me that they'd been seeing each other for a short time and that she meant nothing to him.
She was a fling, he said, a mistake that 'just happened' and it was me he loved. A heartbroken Debbie kicked Ian out of the family home and refused to take his pleading phonecalls, admitting she "despised footballers willing to sacrifice their families for instant sexual gratification." She eventually took him back for the sake of their son, and daughter Bobbi-Lee came along soon after. But Debbie's heartache was far from over. Sadly, that wasn't the case," she said, revealing how she learned he'd fathered a child with another woman. For Ian, he continued to be tormented by his actions, admitting he got caught up in fame and instant gratification. "It was while I was playing for Arsenal and everything was going so well for me that I got a bit carried away with myself because of all the attention I was getting, the money I was being paid and having so many people all over me," he wrote in his autobiography, A Life In Football, admitting he doesn't see Coco. "I got caught up in all of that and cheated on first wife, Debbie, which destroyed my marriage. "If there's ever been a time in my life I wish I could change, that would be it." Meanwhile, his failed marriage wasn't the only demon Ian was having to do battle with. A troubled childhood with an absent father, a bullying step-dad and a heavy drinking mother had left its mark. On the pitch the hurt masqueraded as anger, with the striker hauled in front of the FA for spitting on Oldham Athletic fans and trashing a referee's changing room. "I ended up kind of like blacking out and I smashed the referee's room to smithereens," he previously told The Players Tribune. (Image: PA Archive/PA Images) It's like I blacked out with pure rage." Talking to The Mirror earlier this year, he told how he was desperate for affection from his mother, Nesta. I just felt really, really alone," he said. "All I thought about was much I hated being in my house, how much I hated my sister and aunt, I hated my step-dad, and how my mum never showed anything." Determined to be a better father to his own children, he started seeing a counsellor who taught him to "channel" his rage. Then a chance meeting in a Notting Hill pub changed everything. There he met his second wife, Nancy Hallam, and knew she was the one from the minute she "mugged him off". "My missus didn't know anything about football," Ian recently revealed on I'm A Celeb. "I met her in a pub in Notting Hill, it was the biggest kind of mugging off in respect of meeting someone. (Image: Getty Images Europe) They married in 2011 and had daughters Lola and Roxanne, and he says their blissful family life has finally taught him the meaning of love and tranquility. "I didn't experience an enormous amount of love from my mum when I was a child, so I've had to learn what it is, and learn how to be happy and at peace," he said, apologising for how he treated women before. "I've put other people through horrible experiences along the way. If people think that's selfish, then I'm really sorry," he continued. "Nancy's the perfect woman and I can't stand to be apart from her and our daughters. 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 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 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. 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. READ: Kate Garraway's husband reacts to I'm a Celebrity star Myles Stephenson fancying his wife 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. Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.