Ian came into professional football relatively late when he signed for Crystal Palace at the age of 23. He quickly made his mark in his first season, scoring nine goals to finish as Palace's second-highest scorer. The following year Ian was instrumental in the clubs success scoring 24 goals in the second Division and 33 in all competitions.
In 1990 he gained full international honours, and reached a hundred goals for Crystal Palace. He scored twice as Palace beat Everton to win the Zenith Data Systems Cup at Wembley. Known as ‘Wrighty’ he became renowned for his deadly striking ability, as shown when he scored a hat-trick in just eighteen minutes in Palace's penultimate game of the 1990–91 season away to Wimbledon.
Ian scored 117 goals in 253 starts and 24 substitute appearances over six seasons for The Eagles in all competitions, making him the club's record post-war goalscorer and third on the all-time list. In 2005, he was voted into their Centenary XI and was named as their "Player of the Century".
Ian signed for Arsenal in September 1991 for a club record fee. He scored on his debut against Leicester City in a League Cup tie, and then scored a hat-trick on his League debut against Southampton. Wrighty went on to be the club's top scorer for six seasons in a row and played a major part in the club's success during the 1990s, winning an FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993. He also scored in both the FA Cup Final and the replay against Sheffield Wednesday.
By the time Arsène Wenger had arrived at Arsenal in September 1996, Wrighty was nearly 33. Despite this, he continued to score regularly (being the second highest Premier League scorer in 1996–97 with 23 goals), and in September 1997 he broke Cliff Bastin's Arsenal goalscoring record with a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers .
Ian scored 185 goals for Arsenal in just 279 starts and 9 substitute appearances. His final goal at Highbury in October 1997 was his 300th career goal for both Crystal Palace and Arsenal. On leaving Arsenal, Ian played for West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Celtic. When Ian retired in 2000 his club career stats stood at 305 goals in 596 league and Cup matches. Its surprising he only won one Golden Boot Award (2002), but is able to boast a number of other trophies that include an FA Premier League winners medal (1997/8), FA Cup winner medals in 1993 and 1998, League Cup winner in 2003 and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994.
Ian’s International career began when Graham Taylor handed him his England debut in February 1991. He started in the 2–0 victory against Cameroon at Wembley and helped England reach the finals of Euro 1992 in Sweden. His England career spanned eight years and three managers.
Media career – Ian began his television career as a guest host on Top of the Pops. He was later signed up by ITV to present his own chat show, Friday Night's All Wright, and went on to present a host of programs including Friends Like These, They Think It’s All Over, Men and Motors, Gladiators and Match of The Day.
Following his retirement from playing in 2000, Ian was awarded the MBE for his services to football.