The small wonder

WRIGHT-PHILLIPS
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The Independent Online

His new club comrade Frank Lampard, the reigning Footballer of the Year, believes the manager Jose Mourinho's decision to make Wright-Phillips his biggest summer signing is an indication that there will be an English spine to Chelsea's title defence this season.

Mourinho will show something of his hand in America tonight when Chelsea line-up for a pre-season friendly against the European Cup finalists Milan, in Boston. Wright-Phillips and his fellow England internationals, Lampard, Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge and the club captain, John Terry, will all be hoping to impress.

Lampard thinks Wright-Phillips will be a star for both club and country in the season ahead as Chelsea look to retain their title and challenge for the European Cup before England go to Germany in their quest to be more than World Cup also-rans next summer.

Lampard is already a fan of "Shaun of The Shed", as Chelsea fans are affectionately calling their latest millionaire recruit. "He's the first English player Jose has signed," the midfielder pointed out.

"He is a very young, exciting player, English and has fantastic ability. He was one of the most exciting players in the Premier League last year. I'm sure Jose was waiting for the right English player to become available, which isn't easy, especially in the English market. When the good ones come up they're expensive.

"The midfield looks even stronger now. Previously, we have had more left- wingers. Joe has played on the right-hand side but he is not an out-and-out winger, so Shaun gives us some real pace and width. If he plays like he did for Manchester City last year it will be very exciting, and he will fit in very easily."

It was on Boxing Day six years ago that the then Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli sent his men out against Southampton without a single British player in the starting XI. Vialli won that day and Chelsea won trophies under the Italian, but he ultimately got the sack for failing to win the League. Mourinho negotiated that obstacle in his first season at Stamford Bridge. Can he now make his team even better by fitting SWP into his plans for global domination?

Lampard certainly thinks so: "You can't beat talent such as Shaun's, especially in big games when it is tight. That little bit of pace and that something special which players like Shaun brings can make all the difference.

"He will be fantastic at home, but in tight games away from home he can create something special with that extra pace of his. At times we have lacked that and he gives us other options now."

The same, Lampard believes, could apply to Sven Goran Eriksson's England side, and that could mean the end of the captain David Beckham's stranglehold on the right side of midfield as Wright-Phillips looks to add to his four senior international caps. Eriksson is bound to keep an eye on today's Chelsea debut against Milan, even though it is only a friendly. "I don't know what difference it makes where you play," Lampard suggested, "but maybe playing Champions' League football will give Shaun that extra edge.

"The way he has played so far, he is in with a great shout of being in the England squad, if not the team. John, Joe and myself have all benefited from being at Chelsea and playing in the Champions' League and that is what good players do. Good players relish a challenge and they step up when they get a chance, and Shaun has a great chance to do that. I'm sure he is more than capable of doing it."

With no limit stamped firmly on his cheque guarantee card, Mourinho could field two starting XIs capable of challenging for the title, but Lampard, who started virtually every match last season, believes the multimillionaire King's Road cavaliers will remain happy campers. And soon we will all find out what SWP really stands for - £21m bench-warmer, or Chelsea and England superstar.

"The manager will do as he sees fit," Lampard added. "We have a lot of big players who have to be kept happy, but at the same time we must try to keep a settled team. We had that last year and that was a big reason for our success. I'm sure he will try to keep a steady core like he did last year and rotate as he sees fit depending on fitness, form and injuries."

Meanwhile, the former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has explained how he urged the Gunners to sign his adopted son when he was a youngster. "But it didn't work out," he said. "Just to see everybody making such a fuss around him, I can't even explain how proud I felt. It's so weird to see your son go for £21 million. I was just pleased for him to make the first team at City. It's all so very exciting and I'm so delighted for him."

Full name: Shaun Cameron Wright-Phillips

Born: 25 October 1981 in London

Height: 5'6"

Clubs: Started as a trainee at Nottingham Forest in 1997 but was transferred to Manchester City a yer later. It wasn't until last season that he came to prominence. Some scintillating performances in the Premiership attracted the attention of the top clubs. The Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho finally paid £21m for the 24-year-old.

International Highlights: Debut and first goal against Ukraine in August 2004. Since then he has gained three more caps.

They say: "He picks the ball up, has a low centre of gravity and can twist and turn," City manager Stuart Pearce said.

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