Keegan hails Wright-Phillips as 'this year's sensation'

Manchester City 1 - Fulham 1
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The Independent Football

It is not often that Kevin Keegan runs short of words. Give him a subject and he can rattle on without deviation and hesitation, even if repetition can be a problem. But Shaun Wright-Phillips's potential defeated him.

It is not often that Kevin Keegan runs short of words. Give him a subject and he can rattle on without deviation and hesitation, even if repetition can be a problem. But Shaun Wright-Phillips's potential defeated him.

The Manchester City manager was celebrating tying his 22-year-old winger to the club for a further four years with a new contract when he strayed on to the R word. "I would put him up there with Wayne Rooney," he said, an excited gleam in his eye. "He's a different player, don't get me wrong, but," he added and then his powers of description failed him and all he could add was, "Ooph."

You could hardly blame him. There are only so many superlatives in the English language and Keegan had used most of them in describing a 5ft 5in player whose chief weakness was perceived to be his lack of inches. But then Keegan was hardly a colossus himself and he could play a bit.

"I've been telling anyone I respect that Shaun Wright-Phillips is going to be the sensation this season," Keegan said. "He's got a lot of his dad's qualities and if he ever learns Ian Wright's ability to finish he'll be really something. And his dad was a late developer, so Shaun's already ahead of him."

Wright was at the City of Manchester Stadium and he probably marvelled at his son's talent and then despaired at City's penchant for self-harm. Robbie Fowler put them ahead and they should have strolled to three points, but managed to produce their customary defensive collapse to allow Collins John to get an equaliser.

Yet another bad day at the office then, and only Wright-Phillips, who got an England call-up for Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine to go with his pay rise, had much reason to smile.

"He won't be fazed by being in an England side," Keegan said. "The other players will love playing with him. He's one of those kids you can't help but like. Once they get him in training, England will see the things that we see.

"If he hadn't been injured he might have forced his way into the Euro 2004 squad. He might have been the star of the tournament. You never know."

What might have been. Now that is a subject they can always find the words for at City.

Goals: Fowler (28) 1-0; John (56) 1-1.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt (Barton, 77), Reyna, Sibierski; Anelka, Fowler (Macken, 77). Substitutes not used: Ellegaard (gk), Jihai, McManaman.

Fulham (4-5-1): Van der Saar; Volz, Knight, Pearce, Bocanegra; John (McBride, 62), Jensen, Diop, Legwinski, Radzinski (Pembridge, 79); Cole. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Rehman, Goma.

Referee: D Messias (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Fulham: Volz, Cole.

Man of the match: Sibierski.

Attendance: 44,026.

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