Ian Wright: Home Truths began with the ex-footballer saying that the home he grew up in was ‘not a happy one’. As truths go, though, this soon turned out to belong firmly in the category of ‘understated’. Not surprisingly, Wright’s favourite boyhood programme was Match of the Day — which is why his stepfather would make him stand with his face against the wall while it was on. (‘Just because he could,’ Wright explained.) He also beat Wright’s mother: often, Wright recalled, while she repeatedly cried the word ‘Sorry!’ One consequence of this abuse, he went on, was that she took it out on him — informing him on ‘a daily basis’ that she hated him and, slightly less regularly, that she wished she’d had him terminated.
These days Wright lives in a house full of such middle-class signifiers as wooden serving bowls for pasta and oversized glasses for wine. But, as he put it with the anguished matter-of-factness that characterised much of the programme, ‘I keep remembering things.’ He wonders, too, about the long-term effects of a childhood spent in a state of fear — not only on him but on others who’ve had similar experiences. Indeed, one of the many virtues of a documentary that might even deserve that hideously overused TV adjective ‘brave’ was how well it blended Wright’s personal story with the wider picture of domestic abuse in Britain, which affects 1.6 million women — in 90 per cent of cases where children are present.
For the personal-story part he returned to the house in south-east London where he, his older brother Morris, his mother and stepfather lived in a single room. After weeping at the sight of the wall where he suffered his weekly Match of the Day humiliation, he pointed out with a rueful semi-smile that ‘This wall doesn’t realise what it’s done to me in my life.’