RALPH Wright, who has the rather unique list of Hartlepool United, Spennymoor and New York Cosmos on his football CV, has died. He was 72.

He started out with Spennymoor before signing for Darlington without making an appearance for the Quakers. He moved to Pools in June 1970 after a stint with Bradford PA and made 24 appearances, scoring three times, leaving for Stockport after one season.

A number of players spent their summers playing in the NASL and their winters in the Football League and he teamed up with Malcolm Dawes to sign for Cosmos, thanks to Easington-born manager Gordon Bradley.

When he was with Moors in 1977, Ferryhill-born Wright discovered en-route to an FA Cup tie at Rotherham that he wasn’t playing.

When the bus stopped near Doncaster, he stormed off – with his boots – and caught a train home.

Moors lost 6-0, he never played for them again and said of the incident: “In the last few weeks in America I was playing centre half against the likes of Eusebio, Pele, Georgio Chinaglia, George Best and Geoff Hurst. None of them scored against me yet I couldn’t get a game for Spennymoor.

“I have a reputation for being a bit short with people and I was in a fury, but it was just a reaction at the way it was done, reading it in the paper. I wasn’t going all the way to Rotherham to watch that lot.”

After signing for the New York Cosmos and all the glitz and glamour associated with the club, Wright gave an interview to the New York Daily News in June 1973.

He said: “The whole idea of the American experience excited me. Coming over here to help soccer grow in this country, see the United States and make some beer money. Plus, it’s a way to stay in shape for the season back home. All in all, it’s not a bad deal I’d say.”

He earned $150 a week – the equivalent of $866 today (around £680) and broke his nose on seven occasions during his playing days.

“This is a rough game, especially in England,” he smiled. “You can’t be concerned with looking pretty. I found it to be a very physical game in the States, too, but in a different way. In America, if you tackle a guy hard, he’s liable to turn around and have a swing at you. In England, he’ll make sure that the referee isn’t looking before he seeks vengeance. Much more professional, you know.”

And when up against the very best, he wasn’t afraid of reputations.

In the closing minutes of the Cosmos’ 1-0 victory over the Miami Toros in April 1976, Wright had a run-in with Pele. Wright was tightly making the Brazil legend and Pele had enough and led the ball go by him and sent Wright sprawling with a body check. When Wright got up, he raced to Pele and booted him in the shins.

He first signed for the Cosmos for the 1973 North American Soccer League season.

After returning to his homeland to perform for Southport for the 1973-74 season, Wright returned to the US, appearing for the Miami Toros from 1974-76, winning the NASL crown in his first season, before a spell with the Dallas Tornado in 1976.

He then spent the remainder of his career with numerous North-East clubs. After he left Gateshead he returned to Moors and then played for Whitley Bay, Ashington, Gateshead, North Shields. In June 1982 he was appointed joint player manager at Evenwood Town and later was involved with Durham City, Stockton and Esh Winning. He was still playing Sunday league football into his early 60s.