Red Bulls Ready To Fly With The Wright Brothers

(Bradley and Shaun Wright-Phillips – Photo by Jason Schott)

The New York Red Bulls introduced their newest signing, Shaun Wright-Phillips, who is joining his brother Bradley to form possibly the best duo up front on the MLS, at a press conference on Tuesday at Red Bull Arena.

Shaun came to the United States on June 3rd for Bradley’s wedding, which was a week later, on the 12th in New Jersey. Shaun attended the Red Bulls game in Houston on June 5th and he met Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch at the airport that night. It wasn’t long before Shaun was training with the Red Bulls to stay in shape as he fielded offers, as he was a free agent from Queens Park Rangers in England. Shaun fit in so well with the team in training that it became a reality that he could sign with the Red Bulls and that became a reality on Monday.

A native of London, England, Shaun Wright-Phillips began his career in the English Premier League with Manchester City in 1999, and he stayed until 2005, followed by a second stint from 2008-11. He played for Chelsea from 2005-2008, and with Queens Park Rangers from 2011-15. He has been part of teams that have won two FA Cups, a Premier League championship, one League Cup and a Community Shield.

He totaled 36 caps and six goals with England’s national team from 2004-10. He was on England’s final 23-man roster in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and appeared in England’s first two games in the 2010 FIFA World Cup against the United States and Algeria.

Shaun Wright-Phillips enjoyed a breakout season with Manchester City in 2004-05, scoring 10 times in 33 appearances before moving to Chelsea. He made 299 Premier League appearances and scored 31 goals over the course of his career. The Wright-Phillips brothers will play on the same side for the first time since 2004 with Manchester City.

Shaun will wear number 98, while Bradley wears 99, and Shaun joked that if their father, English soccer legend Ian Wright joined them, he would wear 100.

Bradley Wright-Phillips, Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Red Bulls Head Coach  Jesse Marsch. Photo by Jason Schott.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch. Photo by Jason Schott.

New York Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis opened the press conference by saying of Shaun Wright-Phillips, “Today’s a great day for the New York Red Bulls, we’re able to add not only a great player that has a tremendous amount of experience and is a great guy in our locker room, but we’re adding a great human being. He’s a really good person, we’ve had the benefit of having Shaun in training over the last few weeks to see how he is as a player, to see how he is as a person, and we’re elated. This season, there’s been some challenges, but there’s been a lot of special things that have happened this season that we’re in a good spot, we’re looking forward to the rest of the games for the rest of the season and this was an opportunity where we could add strength to our roster so that we could have a very strong finish and go deep into what we feel is a very, very good, tight race for the playoffs.”

Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch on Shaun Wright-Phillips: “I think it’s a great day for our club and for our team. I first got familiar with Shaun watching him as a fan for Man [City] and Chelsea and when I joined the U.S. Soccer staff we started the scouting process for the 2010 World Cup and so I watched Shaun Wright carefully and I was always impressed with the quality he had on the field, but I was always even more impressed with the work rate that he showed for his team and all the little things that he did to help make his team successful.

Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch. Photo by Jason Schott.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch. Photo by Jason Schott.

“When I first met him, actually, was in the airport with Bradley on the way back from Houston and we talked for maybe 15 minutes and upon talking to him I wasn’t surprised at all knowing Bradley what a great guy he is, and you can see how humble he was even given the great atmospheres that he’s played in, the great clubs that he’s played for, the great coaches he’s played for, the great players he’s played with and the great career that he already had, he was such a humble man in terms of what he thought of the game, what he thought of our team, what he thought of our league, and you could see that he did have a big interest in what MLS is and what could be for him. That day I kind of made the decision that it’d be good to have him out at training and welcome him and see if he would enjoy the process of being with our team a little bit and getting fit. And as time went on, I think we could all see that his desire to be here grew, and certainly the hopes, to be honest with you, the hopes that I had that he would fit in well and really enjoy it and want to be a part of it started to grow every day, and really, it became an easy decision for me to go to Ali (Curtis) and start to talk to him that even though, with the direction of our club, looking to get younger that there would be outliers in the process and that given where we were positionally, given the experience, given the savviness in the attacking part of the field, we just felt that Shaun Wright was the perfect addition so I’m honored to have him on our team, I’m excited to have him on the field, already, today in training, we did a little 11v11 and he was part of that for the first time and you could see how easily he was going to fit into the group. Some of the intangibles and savviness that he brings in the final third already made many of our other attacking players, including his brother, better already in training so we’re all excited, I think we know he can add to us in so many different ways, so welcome, Shaun. We’re really excited to have you,” said Marsch.

Shaun Wright-Phillips said, “First of all I’d like to thank Ali and Jesse for welcoming me here and most of all my teammates and the fans as well for making me feel so appreciated and putting the work rate into achieving where we are now today. It’s a hard one because obviously when I came from my brother’s wedding, I was expecting to be back on a plane, back to the UK shortly after, but like Jesse said, he caught me in the airport and asked me to train just to keep my fitness up and it kind of all fell into place and I think as much as I wanted to be that I thought the feel felt pretty mutual between me and the teammates and the coaching staff and it felt like I was just in a family and that’s kind of what it felt like when I was 19 and I first started breaking through at Manchester City, so I’m very welcome to be here right now and I’m very humble at the same time and hopefully I can do exactly what you guys expect me to do and help the Red Bulls win stuff in MLS.”

Shaun Wright-Phillips said of what the past few weeks have been like and if the opportunity to play with Bradley was a deciding factor for him, “I think personally that was part of it, but I think for me mostly, not only being able to play with him, but to help him and the Red Bulls achieve something, the staff, the players, Ali and the fans and everybody to help them be able to achieve something, to be a part of something great I think means more than just me and my brother playing together, I think that’s just an extra added bonus.”

Jesse Marsch speaks during the press conference, with (from l. to r.) Ali Curtis and Shaun and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Photo by Jason Schott.
Jesse Marsch speaks during the press conference, with (from l. to r.) Ali Curtis and Shaun and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Photo by Jason Schott.

Marsch said of how Shaun improves the team on and off the field, “I think all of you that have gotten to know Bradley have learned that he’s one of the most humble superstars in our league and when you get to talk with Shaun and Shaun’s resume, it’s incredible how humble his approach is as well.  They’re both great guys.  I think them playing together is a great story, it’s going to be awesome for the both of them, but what’s most important is that they’re both great footballers.  Shaun, specifically again, we have a lot of big attacking weapons, and we have a very dynamic team, and we wanted to make sure that any player we brought in fit into that, made us better, understood our system, understood how to play with the players that we have already, and Shaun brings, again, that savviness and that experience and that little bit of ‘know how,’ that finishing touch on plays in the final third, and when you saw him train with us every day his work rate, the amount of tackles he put in, the ground he covered in training, everything that we would want from a guy like him and to play in any of the midfield positions he just fit it all to a tee.  As time went on it became obvious, even though like I said from an age perspective and everything else it might’ve been an outlier for the direction of the club, we knew that this was the right guy to bring in to help make us better, and I think we’re all excited to get him on the field and get him started and get him going.  Even there were bits of today where we played where it seemed like he’s been here all year, so there’s certainly a lot of excitement not just from the coaching staff but from the players and we’re all ready to get him going.”

On what was it like growing up with each other, Shaun said, “There was only once when we played on the same team because he’s younger than me I had to go in goal so we didn’t really get the rivalry.  We always just wanted the best for each other, and the only rivalry really was who was going to score the most goals on Sunday in the game and that was pretty much the closest it got.”

Bradley said of that, “I’ve been asked this question a few times.  I don’t think we’re too competitive, and as Shaun said we want the best for each other.  Besides, he’s the older brother, for a number of years he was better than me at everything, and this is why I’m happy he’s here, it’s good to see who will be better now for the team.  I’m only joking.  We’re not too competitive, we get on with it and try to help the team.”

Bradley said of his transition from England to the MLS, “For me, it was just an opportunity. My agent let me know that there was an opportunity, they liked me, and just to come over and see what it’s like. I ended up having a two-week training, like trial period, and I loved it, I didn’t want to go back. You could understand for me, I was a young man, my wife wasn’t here, and I was living in Hoboken. It was hot, I’d go training, come home, and I didn’t want to come home, I told her, we’re moving here – if they want to sign me, I’m staying. For him (Bradley), like I said, he’s an experienced player, he’s been here long enough training with the team, he knows what to expect, he’s trained in the heat. He knows what the boys are like, he’ll be alright, Shaun will be okay.”

Shaun Wright-Phillips. Photo by Jason Schott.
Shaun Wright-Phillips. Photo by Jason Schott.

Shaun said of his intentions after Bradley’s wedding to go back to the UK and field offers, and if there was any thought of playing in MLS, “Obviously the thought has always been there and it’d always been nice.  I watch the MLS back home on Sundays, especially now that Sky [sports] has got it because it comes on at decent times so it’s not too late in the evening.  Like I said before it all kind of just fell into place.  When I came I went to watch the game in Houston, Texas because I said wherever he’s playing I’m just going to travel and watch him and be a fan for once in my life and that’s what I’ve pretty much done all month as well as train.”

Shaun said of the transition from training to games with the Red Bulls, “For me, I was just training for the coaches, we were all bonding and growing together in the couple of weeks I was there and between Jesse, Ali, and me we’ve had a few conversations and the more I training and the more conversations we had it became more likely to happen and I was quite overwhelmed they even approached me in that way because I didn’t think, or didn’t expect it because I was just here training, and all the players just made me feel welcomed that we seemed to gel together.”

Marsch on what they’re hoping some of your younger players learn from playing with Shaun on the field and being around him: “You can classify it as younger players but I think a lot of our players can learn, even some of our established guys, about at speed how the game is supposed to be played, his feel for moments, his ability to wrong foot a guy and set up a play that maybe no one else saw coming, and I think that’s what’s going to help us find more chances and be more creative and dynamic in the attack.  As a guy, he’s a great guy.  As brothers, they’re two of the best guys you can meet in the sport or out.  They’re just really good men, they come to work every day, they enjoy being around the team, it’s added to our group in a lot of ways.  After a couple weeks, I had players coming in my office asking ‘what’s going on with Shaun Wright-Phillips?’  This way probably a poorly kept secret for a while, and I don’t think this catches anyone by surprise because as he trained with us, everyone was so excited to have him around.  A lot of times when you have those big players in training it elevates everything, it brings everybody’s level up and I think that Shaun has had that impact on the team, and that’s why we can only wait and anticipate the day he steps on with the first team in a real game, and I know how big of an impact he’s going to have in those moments.”

Shaun said of Marsch and how he relates to coaches he has played for in England like Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho, “He’s very up, more or less at the top with Mourinho in my eyes. He’s good at giving players self-belief and a confidence, and I think as a team, as you know, I’ve been around managers, I think it’s important that they drill in confidence in their players so they have the ability to, once they get on the pitch, to have the belief to be able to go out and do exactly what they do in training. He’s big on hard work and I always am a hard worker, even if it doesn’t benefit me, but it benefits the team, I’ll try and do it, and I think that’s a good trait to have in a manager.”

Curtis said of Shaun Wright-Phillips being an outlier from the description of a typical RBNY star player from the past, and what made him pull the trigger and bring Shaun on board, “We’ve had the benefit of the last month, and Shaun’s been in training with us and he’s been fantastic.  There’d be days, and I think Jesse will tell you, where he’s arguably been our best finisher on some training days and it’s been fantastic in that respect.  Getting to know Shaun over the last month, you know that the type of environment we’re trying to cultivate and we’re trying to develop over time, he fits into that, he fits in well with the locker room and if you talk to any of the guys that are on the roster, they enjoy not only playing with Shaun but hanging out with him, talking shop with him, so he fits kind of what we’re trying to do as a club, and he’s an excellent soccer player so he fits in well.  We’re looking forward to this stretch of the season, him helping us immensely.”

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