Steve Wright was born in Leicester in 1893. He played representative football for Leicester Schools, alongside future Bolton team-mate and Scotland international Alex Donaldson. He went on to play for Leicester-based club Belvoir Street Sunday School, where he succeeded future England international Tommy Clay as team captain after Clay signed for Leicester Fosse.
During the First World War, Steve served with the Leicester Regiment and the Royal Amy Medical Corp. For a time he was stationed in Ireland, where he played for Dublin club Bohemians and was picked to play in an amateur international against England, the selectors believing him to be an Irishman; he did not accept the invitation.
After the war, amid interest from “several first-class clubs”, Steve signed for Bolton Wanderers of the Football League First Division. He spent over two seasons with the club, as backup for Jimmy Seddon, and played 10 first-team matches, all in the league, before moving on to Norwich City of the Third Division South to in July 1922 for a £750 fee. Until then he had played as a centre half, “[making] up for his lack of height by his cleverness” – he stood 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) – but he was a regular for Norwich on the left of the half back line.
Steve saw his future in management, but after failing to get the player manager vacancy at Chatham Town, he attempted to continue his playing career with Brighton & Hove Albion in 1923–24. He made just four appearances before a broken leg forced his retirement at the end of the season.
Steve returned to Ireland in 1930 as trainer-coach – effectively, manager – of Dundalk, He was later to describe the role as “doing everything except selling the programmes”. He led the club to runners-up spots in both league and Cup in his first season, and his team then won the President’s Cup by a wide margin. In his third season, Dundalk became the first team based outside the capital to win the league title.
After four years with Dundalk, Steve went back to England to take up the post of trainer at Lincoln City. Lincoln finished in the top four of the Third Division North three times in the four seasons that Steve trained them, and according to the Lincolnshire Echo, he “proved a popular and efficient trainer, and tributes to the fit condition of the players have been paid on many of the grounds on which City have appeared.” He joined Ipswich Town newly elected to the Football League, as trainer in July 1938, but left them again soon.