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Black History Month: The Wright (Phillips) brothers

Both the son of an English great, they grew up to make their own names symbolize greatness.

Source: New York Red Bulls
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Over the course of history, there have been some families who have had multiple members become great soccer players. The Boatengs. The Nevilles. The Tourés. The Dos Santoses. The Maldinis. The Bradleys. Well, there was one other family who had two brothers taking after their father in making a great career in soccer: the Wright-Phillips family.

Ian Wright was a former England great who scored 387 goals in 581 matches for Crystal Palace, Arsenal, West Ham United, Nottingham Forest, Celtic FC, and Burnley FC. He also had 33 international caps for the Three Lions, scoring 9 times in his career. When he was just 21 years old, he adopted the son of his then-girlfriend, Sharon Phillips. That son was 3-year-old Shaun Phillips, who was renamed Shaun Wright-Phillips. Just a year later, Phillips and Wright had a son together, Bradley. Shaun and Bradley are two of Ian Wright’s 8 children, but they are also the two that were able to take that name to new heights on the soccer field.

Shaun Wright-Phillips’s soccer career first started in the academy for Nottingham Forest, moving to Manchester City’s academy when he was 17. He rose through the ranks quickly, making his debut in 1999 in a league match against Burnley FC. Ironically, he just missed playing against his dad, who would join Burnley in February 2000 to finish his career. SWP would soon become a regular in the starting lineup for City, staying there for 6 seasons and scoring 31 goals before securing a transfer to Chelsea.

His first year at Chelsea, he was a regular starter and helped the Blues to the Premier League title. He was at Stamford Bridge for 3 seasons, winning every domestic trophy except the League Cup. In 2008, he would return to Manchester City, where he would play for 3 more seasons before moving to Queens Park Rangers. SWP also was a regular on the England national team. He scored on his debut in August 2004 as a substitute, and he would go on to appear 36 times for the Three Lions, including the 2010 World Cup.

Meanwhile, Bradley Wright-Phillips would have a less-heralded career in England than his half brother. BWP broke through onto the first team with Shaun at Manchester City, making his debut in 2004. He was there a couple seasons before spending time in England’s second and third divisions with Southampton, Plymouth Argyle, Charlton Athletic, and Brentford FC. While his brother remained in the EPL, BWP was trying to make a name for himself in the lower divisions. Finally, he got the breakthrough he was looking for, but he would have to cross the pond to do it.

In 2013, BWP signed with the New York Red Bulls, joining them halfway through the 2013 MLS season. He made an immediate impact at forward, leading the team to the Supporters’ Shield that season. In 2014, his first full season in MLS, he became a star. He scored 27 goals that season, which tied the league’s all-time single season record. In 2015, he would be on fire again, scoring 17 goals. It was then he got some help from a friendly face.

SWP came to train with the Red Bulls after leaving QPR in June 2015. Making a quick impression, he eventually signed with the team on July 27, 2013, joining his half brother at Red Bull Arena. In his first match, Shaun came off the bench to not only win a penalty, but also provide an assist to brother Bradley in the win:

SWP and BWP would play together on the Red Bulls through the end of the 2016 season. BWP in 2016 would score 24 goals, just 3 off his tied record. SWP, at the tail end of his career, would struggle with the Red Bulls, and he would leave after the 2016 season with only 1 goal for the team. Shaun would finish his career in 2017 after a short stint with Phoenix Rising of the USL.

BWP continued to dominate for the Red Bulls, scoring 108 goals in just 6.5 seasons. He scored over 17 goals 5 seasons in a row, and he is looking to get back to that form with Los Angeles Football Club, where he signed a couple weeks ago.

One brother made his name in England. the other had to travel to the United States to earn his rep. Together, the Wright-Phillips brothers will go down as one of the great brother duos that played soccer together and made an impact on the game. Add their father Ian, and you have a dynamite family that rivals most others that have played the game around the world.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.