Footballer Ian Wright MBE has had quite a career. After being rejected by several clubs as a teenager, he trained as a bricklayer and had all but given up on his dream of playing professionally when a Crystal Palace scout saw him playing non-professionally and offered him a contract.

Wright went on to play for Arsenal, becoming one of the club’s top scorers of all time and winning several titles. Since retiring as a player in 2000, Wright has become a respected football pundit and is widely recognised for his unique and dapper style. We sat down with him to talk about football, family and what keeps him grounded.

You were scouted to play professional football relatively late, at the age of 22. Do you think having to work a bit harder and longer for your shot made you appreciate it more?
Without a doubt. I was used to working on a building site from 7am to 8pm, so moving into a football environment, where we might work intensely from 10.30am to 12.30pm, I found it  comparatively easy to be very focused on the work and committed to making myself the best I could be.

You’re such a joyful presence on our screens. Do you have any particular philosophies or practices that keeps you balanced?

Never feel bad about being yourself. People can take it or leave it, but that’s who you are. I’m very fortunate to be doing something I genuinely love and am passionate about, so it’s pretty easy to be myself. If I can make people smile along the way, that’s a bonus.

When you were signed by Arsenal in 1991 (for a record fee) you got some heat for wearing a leather jacket and baseball cap, rather than a suit to the signing announcement. Was that outfit intentionally provocative or just what you wanted to wear that day?

It was just what I wanted to wear that day! I wasn’t doing it intentionally to upset anybody, but, moving to a club like Arsenal, they have certain protocols and are quite strict about those occasions.

You played for several clubs over the course of your career. Was it ever difficult having to shift your allegiances and recommit to a new club and its community?

No, not difficult at all. Because you’re playing for the fans and you owe it to them to give everything you’ve got. And I always did that so it wasn’t a problem for me.

What has kept you grounded over the years?
My wife. She’s a very calm, down to earth person who isn’t really impressed by the glitz and glamour.

What is the one piece of advice you give to players that are just starting out?
There’s no easy way to get to the top of what you want to do. Hard work is the common theme in those that achieve success.

You’ve been a passionate supporter of women’s football and the movement to #letgirlsplay, attempting to the heal the sport’s historic problem with sexism. Do you feel that there’s been progress in recent years?
There has been progress. The mere fact that ladies can now play professionally is progress. But there is still a lot of work to be done — the facilities and amenities for women’s football are still far behind.
Thats why I’m so pleased that sponsors like Barclays have got involved, because they will back that league like they did with the Premier League, for as long as it takes for it to be a success. At the grassroots level, the aim is for all schools to give girls the option to play football in PE by the year 2024. So progress is happening, slowly but surely.

Your impeccable taste has been well documented and your trademark look of flat cap and glasses has become an iconic Match of the Day mainstay. What is your approach to dressing? How do you want a piece of clothing to make you feel?
Firstly, comfort is important. I always wear clothes that make me feel good. It’s vitally important not to be affected by the judgement or criticism of others. Be bold and confident in your choices.

How do you maintain a healthy balance between work and family life?
It’s difficult because my work is mostly on the weekends, so it’s more for my family to balance it. We sometimes have to spend a lot of time apart because of my schedule, so when we do get an opportunity to be together, we make the most of it.

Which London neighbourhood do you feel most connected to and why?
South London, because that ‘s were I grew up. But I spend a lot of time in North West London now, because it’s where I work.

Finally, this year we ask all of our Journal interviewees to complete the following phrase:
You Must Create…
Confidence in yourself.