ST Neots Town manager Dennis Greene says his signing of television star Mark Wright is for ‘footballing reasons’ - and it isn’t just a ‘gimmick’.
Wright, 24, who starred in the last series of the semi-reality ITV show The Only Way Is Essex - and then went on to finish as runner-up in I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here in December, is a defender who was a youth trainee at Tottenham Hotspur, before playing for a host of non-league clubs including Grays Athletic, Crawley Town and Rushden & Diamonds.
But it was while coaching at a Charlton Athletic academy summer school in Spain, where Wright’s family have a holiday home, that Greene got to know the player.
“I think he was playing for Harrow Borough at the time,” said the St Neots manager. “He’d come over and play in seven-a-side games with us.
“I have been talking to him on and off for weeks and we have signed him for footballing reasons - not just as a gimmick. We want players who can win us promotion - not celebrities.”
However, a celebrity Wright is, after coming second to McFly bassist Dougie Poynter in the massive reality show ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ Just over a month ago. Having been a star in the last series of TOWIE (as ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ is called by its many fans), his stint in the jungle elevated his celebrity status to a whole nother level.
So was Greene aware of Wright’s other life - the one outside of football? “Yes,” he told the Hunts Post, “I’m not a hermit - I do watch TV.
“The wife is a big fan of The Only Way Is Essex and I like a bit of jungle.
“But he’s a decent player in his own right - we wouldn’t have signed him otherwise.”
As well as Wright, Greene also signed attacking midfielder Rasheed Kamara on Wednesday.
The Sierra Leone-born former Arsenal trainee played with Saints right back Rene Steer at the Premiership giants before joining Wycombe Wanderers in 2005.
Spells at Kettering Town, Hemel Hempstead and Harrow Borough followed - but the 23-year-old midfielder has most recently been playing for Al Seeb in Oman.
“He’s another excellent player,” said Greene. “He can play up front of just behind or in midfield - he has good feet like Junior Konadu.
“He played for me at Hemel Hempstead and he is the kind of player we need in the squad to push on and win promotion.”
Both players will be in the squad for Saturday’s home game against Woodford United with star attraction Wright expected to start the game.