Wright-Phillips eager for chance

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The Independent Football

Exactly how kind the fates are being to Shaun Wright-Phillips is still open to doubt as he acquaints himself with his first experience of the England squad.

The news that David Beckham would not play any part in tomorrow's friendly in Sweden can only have increased the chances that Manchester City's 22-year-old right-sided midfielder might see a bit of the action in Gothenburg - that is as long as his own injury problem clears up in the next 24 hours.

Wright-Phillips, whose high-energy performances for City this season have raised fleeting echoes of his stepfather, the former Arsenal and England forward Ian Wright, was receiving treatment at the squad's training base near St Albans yesterday for a minor injury he incurred during Saturday's goalless draw with Fulham.

He remained optimistic, but he naturally acknowledged how excruciating it would be if the problem should hamper him making the most of the greatest opportunity he has been offered since he began playing the game on the playgrounds of Brockley in south-east London.

"It would be gutting because this is not a chance that is always going to come around," he said. "It's a chance that I've seen and hopefully if I'm fit enough to play I'll be involved somewhere along the line. I just went over on the side of my ankle and got a bit of a bruised calf. But after the treatment I've had today it feels a lot better and so hopefully it will be OK for me." Although Wright-Phillips never got to see his stepfather playing for England, he has been in regular contact in recent years, and has already discussed with him the latest potential disruption he faces.

"I speak to him every day about how life is treating me, so he knows all about it," Wright-Phillips said. "He told me to handle things in the way he knew I could." The City midfielder, who lives with his partner and two young children, has learned to live with being linked to the man who was one of the most effervescent natural talents of recent years. "I used to mind, but now I know it just comes with the name really so I'm pretty used to it," he said. "I've made my own path in football, but what he has done is great and so I respect him for that." As he spoke, Wright-Phillips was sitting alongside a man who could testify to his stepfather's inspirational qualities at first hand - Jermain Defoe.

The former West Ham striker has spoken in the past of his veneration for a forward with whom his career overlapped for a season at Upton Park.

Defoe remembers with affection and gratitude the time Wright, then in his late-30s, spent with him on the training pitch working on the goal they both had in common - scoring.

Naturally, Wright-Phillips received a similar level of support.

"My dad's helped me a lot as a player, encouraged me in all the right ways, kept me focussing on the right lines," he said. "You watch him and you watch a lot of other players to learn and to get where you are." He is now eager to offer his international manager the kind of variety of play that has become a feature of his performances with his club side.

"I'd like to think I can do that if I can just keep playing the way the lads have helped me to do at City," he said. "The quality of players we've got here will help me even more. Carrying the ball is one of the strongest points in my game and I like to be a danger on the pitch. I like people to know I'm around so if I'm involved any time I will try and do that." Wright-Phillips has not yet spoken about his call-up to the man who has guided his career so successfully, City's manager Kevin Keegan, who is in hospital having a back operation.

But he acknowledged the part the former England manager has played in voicing his claims for international recognition.

"He's pushed my case a lot but it's along with a load of other people who've said that hopefully I'd be able to make that step and deserve it. Now the chance has come round at a good time where I've done quite well." And his spectacular goal in City's 4-1 defeat of their mighty neighbours a fortnight ago, he is happy to accept, did his chances no harm.

"I think it gave me a big push actually, because it's the second one I've scored against them this year and to score against Manchester United is a dream for a lot of people because they have so many internationals in their team." It will take a bit of luck, and perhaps a bit more treatment, but there is at least a fighting chance that United's local rivals could find themselves with one more international in their own team tomorrow night.

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