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Wright-Phillips, Shaun (2005-2008)


loz

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Shaun Wright-Phillips (2005-2008)

Written by Loz and last updated August 2008

posh_shaunleobyrne-toe2.jpg Any mention of Shaun Wright-Phillips is incomplete without the obligatory reference to 'Different Strokes' so here is a picture of Gary Coleman wearing SWP's England shirt whilst making a move on Beckham's missus.

Now on with the show.....

‘Sweep’ was born on October 25th, 1981 in Greenwich, London. He has the middle name Cameron so I can only assume his original name was Shaun Cameron Phillips with the Wright being added when he was adopted by ex-Gooner Ian Wright.

swp%20as%20a%20youngster2.jpg When he was 15 SWP failed to make the grade at Notts Forest, their reason for rejecting him being that he was ‘too small’ - since then he has shrunk. Manchester City, then managed by Joe Royle, and a club looking to reduce its tailoring bill, were quick to sign him up and put him into their youth development scheme.

Shaun was to make his Premiership start at the age of 19 (he had already had a handful of first team appearances off the bench) in the 2000-2001 season. He made a number of appearances before picking up a season ending knee ligament injury in a reserve match. By 2001-2002 City were out of the top flight and Kevin Keegan was in charge, this will always bode well for a player who plays in an attacking position as there are generally 7 places to go round! City went straight back up and SWP made an impressive 41 appearances in all competitions, scoring 8 goals and setting up many for the likes of Wanchope, Huckerby and City favourite ‘The Goat’

wright_phillips%202004%20at%20city.jpg The 2002-2003 season saw Shaun go on to impress (and also pick up a couple of red cards, one of which was rescinded) and he made a further 40 appearances, scored 11 goals and earned a call up to the senior England squad (although a calf injury was to rob him of that opportunity).

On August 18th, 2004 Shaun was to win his first England cap and, in doing so, also open his account for the international team when he came off the bench to score against the Ukraine in a 2-0 win. His performance and the quality of his goal that day had many people thinking he had a long and successful career ahead of him at both club and country level.

swp_england%20vs%20ukraine.jpg His first England start came against Holland on February 9th, 2004 and he was then part of the England team in one of the most hideous football spectacles for many years. November 17th 2004, an away ‘friendly’ against Spain. Hideous partly because of the standard of England’s performance but more so because of the racist abuse dished out by a section of the Spanish crowd, Shaun, along with the other black players in the England team, being targeted.

That 2004-2005 season was to be Shaun’s finest in terms of personal performance. He was Man City’s star performer and was voted into the Barclaycard team of the season as well as being nominated for the PFA young player of the year.

Speculation about his future had been fierce, with Arsenal (courtesy of Shaun’s adopted father Ian Wright) being tipped as his likely destination. However Chelsea stepped in with an offer of £21m, an offer which is rumoured to have topped Arsenal’s by as much as £10m. City certainly couldn’t afford to turn down that type of cash and SWP can be forgiven for thinking that we must have been damn keen to get him and thus his future as a first team player looked bright. He signed a 5 year contract on July 17th, 2005 and looked forward to a bright season the the 2006 World Cup.

wish.jpg However if there are any certainties in life they are death, taxes and wingers struggling to make a mark in a Jose Mourinho side. Shaun struggled to make any mark on the first team and his England career started to fade as a consequence, so much so that come the 2006 World Cup Shaun’s was not on the flight (although some 8 year old who had never played a first team game for Arsenal was, cheers Sven).

In the 2005-2006 season Shaun made 39 appearances for Chelsea however 24 of these were coming off the bench and many of the games he started he didn’t finish. On paper that still looks like he was given ample opportunity to prove his worth however the intermittent nature of his season must have made it hard for him to gain any fluidity or confidence and that showed through in his performances. Where was the SWP that had run at defenders for City, where was that searing pace and goals from distance that had so impressed when he played for City? Was their evaporation down to lack of confidence, was it down to Jose’s seemingly relentless desire to turn wingers into possession players instead of orthodox wingers who take on the full back and hit the line, or was it that Shaun just wasn’t used to being a small cog in a big wheel (rather than the main attacking focal point which is what he had become at City). Whatever the reason was there is no denying he looked a shadow of his prior self.

wright_phillips%20celebrates%20scoring%2 It was to take nearly a year and a half as a Chelsea player before he scored his first goal for the club, Chelsea’s second against Levski Sofia in a 2-0 Champions League win on December 5th, 2006. This lack of first team opportunities and performance resulted in many rumours about Shaun returning to City on a loan deal or even being sold with Chelsea taking a massive loss on the deal. However the club have always denied this and Shaun has always stated his desire to stay at Chelsea and prove his worth.

The 2006-2007 season saw Jose almost abandon the idea of wingers and sometimes you had to wonder why Shaun doesn’t cut his losses and get his career back on track.

wright_phillips%20vsbaba%20chelsea%201%2 However I would say that in the latter stages of the season Shaun began to show a little of what some of us felt he is capable of. He scored the winner against Spurs in the FA Cup Quarter Final replay on March 19th, 2007 and followed this up with his first Chelsea Premiership goal (amazing how long it took) against West Ham on April 18th, 2007, a game which probably saw his finest performance in a Chelsea shirt up till that date.

SWP was rewarded for his visible improvement with a starting place in the FA Cup final against Manchester Utd on May 19th, 2007. He lasted the full ninety minutes and was replaced in extra time by Kalou. Personally I would have liked to see Jose use wingers more and for SWP to be one of them. I still felt he had the talent to make it at Chelsea, what he needed is to know the manager has confidence in him.

wright_phillips%20vsbaba%20chelsea%20cel Sweep was a revelation at the start of the 2007/08 season - almost like a brand new signing. Our best player in pre-season and he took that form into the domestic league. Shed End man of the match performances against Birmingham, Reading and Liverpool made people sit up and take notice again. Finally he appeared to be playing with confidence, taking on players and whipping in crosses for the likes of Drogba and Pizarro.

However the curse of SWP's Chelsea career appear reared its ugly head again. Just as he seemed to have forced his way into Mourinho's plans, Mourinho's plans were forced out of Stamford Bridge and Avram Grant unrolled the new plans, plans which didn't appear to be willing to accommodate SWP. In his first game in charge, a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford, Grant dropped SWP to the bench and after that a combination of injury and Grant's selections restricted SWP to appearances from the bench. On October 30th, 2007 an unconfirmed rumour stated that SWP would be sold in the January transfer window after having a bust up with Grant and Henk ten Cate during a training session.

swp%20celebrates%20scoring%20against%20d Well those rumours turned out to be as reliable as SWP's crossing! In fact over the next two months he played more first team football then even his biased Dad dreamed possible.

Excellent performances away at Wigan and at home to Newcastle saw him voted as the Shed End man of the match and in between that he scored against Derby. It wasn't all peaches and cream though. In the 1-1 draw with Everton he was, at best, poor and in the 1-0 defeat away at Arsenal he was downright awful!

In the first leg of the Carling Cup semi final against Everton SWP's performance surpassed that which he put in against the Hammers in April 2007.

Not only did he score with a well placed curling shot which tucked neatly inside Tim Howard's near post, he also took a lot of credit for the winning goal which although goes down as a Lescott own goal it was definitely the pressure put on him by SWP that led to the error. In addition he was, for the full ninety minutes, relentless in his pursuit of the game both in terms of getting forward but also tracking back to help regain possession when it has been lost.

In the Carling Cup final against Tottenham SWP was horrific. Everything that he could do badly, he did do badly. With Joe Cole sitting on the bench (who didn’t even come on for SWP, Kalou did after a painful 72 minutes) it was staggering that he was allowed to carry on playing as badly as he was for such a long period of time. He only made a handful more appearances before the 2007/08 season ended and in all honesty he only featured in 'lower profile' games failing to even win a spot on the bench for the Champions League final in Moscow. The appointment of Felipe Scolari as Chelsea's new manager in the summer of 2008 led to the normal speculation about players coming and going with SWP a player strongly tipped to be going. Harry 'Arthur Daley' Redknapp has made no secret of his admiration of SWP and was strongly rumoured to be preparing a bid for him.

On August 28th Chelsea reached an agreement to sell Sweep back to Manchester City for an 'undisclosed sum' - which loosely translates to 'a sh*t load less than we paid for him'.

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