The Graduates: No.1 SWP
- 05 October 2011 10:42
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
The first, and maybe the best. Shaun Wright-Phillips was the Academy flag bearer, the graduate who showed those who followed in his fleet footsteps what could be achieved, and this after being let go by Nottingham Forest at 15 as 'too small'.
His heart certainly wasn't. Stepdad Ian Wright reminded him that he had not been spotted by Crystal Palace until he was 22 and went on to star for Arsenal and England, and Shauny - SWP to City fans during two spells with the club - recovered from his rejection to wear the Three Lions.
Joe Royle gave his eager winger a senior debut in August 1999 at 17, when he replaced Terry Cooke in a 1-0 League Cup win at Burnley, and his League debut came two months later, as an emergency striker off the bench in a 2-1 win at Port Vale.
A full League debut followed against Portsmouth, and while his progress was hindered by injury and Paul Dickov's form, new boss Kevin Keegan spotted Shaun's potential as a wing back, and he played a key role in the promotion campaign, named club player of the year for 2002 and capped by England at Under-21 level.
A senior England call-up arrived against Ukraine in August 2004, and he marked his appearance off the bench by scoring. Five more goals have followed over the years in 36 international games.
When Chelsea came calling in the summer of 2005, it was an offer he couldn't refuse, but while City were £21million better off, Shaun did not prosper.
Too much bench time at Stamford Bridge cost him a place at the 2006 World Cup, and he also sat out the 2008 Champions League Final.
Mark Hughes, freshly installed at City, realised what a lift his return would be for the club, and so it proved as Wright-Phillips made an explosive return. His second "debut" brought two goals in a 3-0 win at Sunderland and he regained his place as an England regular.
Roberto Mancini, however, was handed a mandate to scour Europe and beyond for top-quality signings. Shaun's last season at City was one of frustration, his only goal an August strike against Timisoara, and he was too often a spectator as City tasted glory.
His second exit, to promoted QPR this summer for £3m, keeps him in the Premier League spotlight. Blues fans keep a place in their hearts for the little man who joined the Academy and beat the odds.