The football star, with help from the author, has turned his experiences of triumph over adversity into a novel for pre-teens, Here the friends discuss fathers, racism and the redemptive power of sport

Sometimes the detail of a single life story can stop half a nation in its tracks. One such arresting moment was the footballer Ian Wright’s extraordinary Desert Island Discs interview with Lauren Laverne in February last year. I had the radio on in the kitchen in the background while I was working to a tight deadline. As soon as Wright started to talk about his childhood, though, I gave up all hope of finishing what I was writing and gave the broadcast my fullest attention. I texted Lisa, my wife, and my daughters to tell them to stop what they were doing and turn it on. By the end, I was crying nearly as much as Wright was.

In recent weeks, when I’ve mentioned to various friends that I was due to talk to Wright for this piece, they have, unprompted, recalled a similar reaction to hearing him as a castaway: a couple of them remembered blubbing and that compulsion to call loved ones to tell them they had to listen too.

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