Even a player with the boundless self-confidence of Shaun Wright-Phillips knows the dangers of telling Chelsea they were fools to let him go, 48 hours before Manchester City walk out at Stamford Bridge. But the contribution he has made since "going home" to City, as he describes it, speaks for itself and Wright-Phillips said yesterday that only Chelsea could tell whether they had missed a major opportunity by marginalising him.
"If they thought that it's down to them but I just concentrate on what I'm doing," said Wright-Phillips, whose side will seek to rectify their pitiful Premier League away form in west London tomorrow. Wright-Phillips has been recalled to the England side, has already scored double the four goals he mustered in three years at Chelsea, and has been rejuvenated under Mark Hughes. He says he has emerged from the struggle at Chelsea with a different outlook on life.
"It made me appreciate life in general," said Wright-Phillips, who was afforded just 82 appearances by Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant. "I was given a chance and I learnt a lot and now I'm using the tools. [Chelsea] is all in the past. I'm just somebody who looks forward."
The winger insists he has no regrets about the move south in 2005 even though it took a chunk out of his career at a prime time and, at 27, has not returned a youngster. "No, absolutely none whatsoever," he said. "It's life isn't it? It's a challenge, and I was up for the challenge and I got as much out it as I could and then it was time for me to move on."
But there is little disguising the fact that he and Wayne Bridge, who expressed some indignation at playing second fiddle to Ashley Cole after giving up on his own Chelsea career in January, have something to prove tomorrow. "Everyone, especially [Bridge] is flying in the team at the moment," Wright-Phillips added. "Confidence is high and it's just something we have to make pay."
City's encounter with Chelsea at Eastlands last September marked the arrival of the club's new Abu Dhabi owners and though hopes of scaling the heights have come to little City, who may have to start with Darius Vassell or Ched Evans up front if Felipe Caicedo has not recovered from a groin strain, are undoubtedly one of the finest counter-attacking forces in the land on their day.
"When we counter-attack we are up there with some of the best in the League if you ask me, because we are playing quickly and with a lot of movement," Wright-Phillips said. "It's something we've done consistently over the last four or five games and we have to maintain it now."