Manchester City have a history of nurturing great wingers, from Mike Summerbee, to David White and Raheem Sterling, the blues have also had someone on the wings who can create something out of nothing. But one of the best wingers to grace both the Maine Road and Etihad wings was undoubtedly Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Sweep (SWP) as he was affectionately known in the stands, arrived at Maine Road in 1999, having been released by Nottingham Forest when he was seventeen. Forest had apparently told the youngster that he was too small to ever make it as a professional footballer, and at the time of his arrival, the blues had been promoted bac to the second tier of English football.
The winger made his City debut against Burnley in the League Cup, but had to wait until October to make his league debut for the club. Vale were leading 1-0 at half-time and manager Joe Royle brought the youngster on at half time to replace Terry Cooke, and Sweep had an instant impact.
In the 72nd minute, his shot found its way into the back of the Vale goal and, although Sweep claimed it, it went down to an own goal. Nevertheless, it gave City the impetus to drive forward for a winner, which duly came thanks to Danny Granville in the 19th minute and City took the points back to Manchester.
Sweep played a bit part for the rest of the season as City made it back to the Premier League, but relegation the following season saw Royle’s three year reign at City come to an end. In his place came Kevin Keegan, who set about returning City to the top flight and established Sweep as a key first team player.
Sweep played a starring role in Keegan’s first season as the blues cruised their way back to the Premier League. He started 30 league matches, scoring 8 goals, including a double in a 2-0 win at Wolves that effectively sealed promotion.
The winger continued with the impressive performances and signed a new contract in 2004 in order to ward off potential moves to the regular Champions League sides, most notably Arsenal, where his step-father Ian Wright had been a legend, but it seemed Sweep was happy in Manchester. The winger made his England debut against Ukraine and scored the team’s third goal as his reputation grew.
It had been long touted that Sweep would eventually make the move to the Gunners, but the blues rejected an offer that came in for him from the London side. Chelsea then sensed they would miss out on the winger and offered £20m for him, which the club again rejected, before accepting an offer of £21m. The move angered then Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who accused City of giving one price to Chelsea and another for others, referring to the Stamford Bridge side’s seemingly endless amounts of money.
City struggled for the next few years until former Thailand PM Thaksin Shinawatra bought the club and invested heavily in the team. In 2008, prior to City’s takeover by ADUG, the club were sanctioned to re-sign Sweep from Chelsea for a reduced fee of around £8.5m. Blues fans welcomed Sweep back with open arms and the winger made his second debut for the club at Sunderland, where he scored two goals in City’s 3-0 win.
Sweep continued his good form for the club, but found himself in and out of the team when manager Mark Hughes was sacked and new boss Roberto Mancini had signed Adam Johnson from Middlesbrough.
The 2010-11 season was Sweep’s last at the club and the winger fell down the pecking order as players such as David Silva and Yaya Toure were preferred ahead of him, however Sweep did feature in the FA Cup, with his final appearance for the blues coming in the semi-final win over United at Wembley, before moving to QPR in the summer.
The winger scored a number of notable goals during his time at City, including a stunner at Arsenal and scoring the fourth goal as the blues thumped United 4-1 at home, but it was his pace, tenacity and desire that won the City fans over. Even now, almost ten years after Sweep last pulled on the famous blue shirt, he is talked about with admiration and respect.
The youngster who would never make it, actually made it.