Sometimes, when you have to pick a cult hero, it really helps to choose one that fits the stereotypes. And Bernie ‘hairy and scary’ Wright certainly ticks most of the boxes.
As a fans’ favourite who was at the club for a brief and memorable spell – Wright’s career mirrors that of previous cult nominees Brett Angell and Bob Newton and like that pair, Bernie was an uncomplicated striker of the old, big and brash, school. Usually accompanied with a full beard and a wild mane of hair, Wright terrorised opposition defences at Vale Park for two years in the late 1970’s.
An incident early in his career epitomised the hirstute’s Wright’s reputation as a fearsome, hardman striker. Playing for Everton, Wright put in a diving header only to collide with a defender. Wright got up, brushed himself off and played on. The defender, on the other hand, suffered a broken toe.
Wright left Everton and became a favourite at Vale’s hated rivals Walsall after scoring 38 goals during his four years at Fellows Park.
He joined Vale for a £9,000 fee in 1978 and after scoring his on his debut, he rapidly became a firm terrace favourite. He then further cemented his reputation with a hat-trick against local rivals Crewe as he finished the season as the club’s Player of the Year and top scorer.
He started the next campaign in a similar goalscoring vein, but after falling out with new manager John McGrath, he left the club at the end of his second season.
Wright subsequently drifted into non-league playing for Kidderminster Harriers, Trowbridge Town, Cheltenham Town, Worcester City and Gloucester City. After retiring from playing he worked as a forklift operator before one final bizarre switch. The fearsome Wright promptly switched sides and became a part-time referee in the Warwickshire Sunday Leagues!
We don’t think many players would have argued with him!
Both hairy and scary
Time at Vale:
If you have any memories of Bernie’s time at the club, please post a comment below.