A football manager caught on camera discussing taking part in corrupt practices has told a court he was “only joking to break the ice”.
Tommy Wright, who is charged with accepting a bribe, talked about “the spicy” and “dark” world of football finance in meetings about talent spotting players.
But in court on Tuesday, the then assistant manager of Barnsley FC said he was merely trying to “break the ice” with his “nervous” comments.
Mr Wright, 53, is accused of accepting a £5,000 bung from a fictitious Far East sports company set up as part of the Telegraph's investigation into football corruption in 2016.
He faces two counts of accepting a bribe while football agents Dax Price and Giuseppe 'Pino' Pagliara, 64, are both charged with two counts of paying and arranging a bribe.
In covert recordings by undercover reporter Claire Newell, Mr Price and Mr Pagliara allegedly discussed bribing Mr Wright to get him to encourage his players to sign to their sports agency and to break regulations on player ownership.
The practice, known as third party ownership, is strictly against FA regulations.
Mr Wright, a former Leeds United and Middlesbrough winger, claims the money was simply a consultancy fee for his professional opinion of players.
He was heard on a secret video recording telling Mr Pagliara and Mr Price: “I don’t want to get into the spicy world of your dealing too much”.
He later added: “Yeah, yeah, dark world. I’ll help your players with that dark world.”
Mr Wright admitted in court that he had been “very excited” at the prospect of the fictional consortium, called Meiran, investing in Barnsley FC, but denied his comments showed he was corrupt.
“It was a comment off the top of my head. I was a bit nervous. I was just trying to break the ice a bit,” he said.
He also rejected the suggestion he was being paid the cash to entice Barnsley players to sign with Meiran as their agents.
“I didn’t want anything to do with telling them the agents to go with. I just gave my opinion on what players I thought were good,” Mr Wright told Southwark Crown Court.
The trial has heard that the Scottish born manager submitted no paperwork for the assessment of players for which he was paid the supposed consultancy fee, nor did he submit any written reports on players, despite being paid the sum.
An emotional Mr Wright told the court he was “naive” and “stupid” not to have asked for a contract and to have accepted the payment in cash, saying it was the first time he had acted as a consultant. But he denied there was anything dishonest or illegal in being paid for his opinion about players.
Mr Wright, one of whose children is ordained as a priest at The Vatican in Rome, said he later paid tax on the £5,000 he received, because he’d had “always done things correctly”.
Denying a claim made on tape by Mr Price that he was “my man”, Mr Wright said: “I’m nobody’s man, apart from my wife’s, probably, who’s the boss.”
Breaking down in tears, Mr Wright described the days after the Telegraph’s story was published as the most difficult of his life.
“I felt embarrassed for myself and my wife, for my son in Rome. I felt terrible,” he said.
Under cross examination, Mr Wright conceded that working as a consultant for another party may have been in breach of his contract with Barnsley FC and contrary to FA regulations, but he said he had not been aware of rules against accepting payments.
Mr Wright, who was sacked by Barnsley over the allegations and is currently suspended as the first team coach of Swindon Town FC, denies two counts of accepting a bribe.
Mr Price, from Kent, and Mr Pagliara, from Bury, both deny two counts of paying and facilitating a bribe.
The trial continues.