Bradley Wright-Phillips has rediscovered love for football in MLS
The former Manchester City and Southampton forward has become New York Red Bulls’ all-time top scorer.
Not so long ago, Bradley Wright-Phillips had fallen out of love with football.
As nights out became more attractive than chasing long balls, the talented forward not only found himself unemployed but at a crossroads.
Wright-Phillips headed westwards at that moment five years ago – a decision that has paid off in spades.
Since moving to the United States, the 33-year-old has twice won Major League Soccer’s Golden Boot and become New York Red Bulls’ all-time top scorer.
So revered is the striker that there is a wall celebrating his scoring feats in the corridors of Red Bull Arena, where there was also until recently a giant ticker overlooking the pitch that keeps a live tally of his record.
Sat on 91 goals, he is on track to become the fastest player to rack up 100 in league history.
“There was a point in my career where I wasn’t happy, you know? I would go out a lot,” Wright-Phillips told Press Association Sport.
“Football wasn’t my main thing.
“To be here now concentrating, getting my head down and finally getting recognition for doing the right thing feels good.”
It is the kind of impact Zlatan Ibrahimovic could only dream of making in MLS.
The former Manchester United striker’s LA Galaxy this weekend host the Red Bulls, who boasted their own big-name striker when Wright-Phillips pitched up.
Thierry Henry, the man who usurped his father Ian Wright as Arsenal’s top scorer, was a team-mate when he first arrived in 2013 – a stark change in surroundings weeks after plying his trade on loan in League One at Brentford.
“I stopped playing at Charlton and I kind of fell out of love with the game,” Wright-Phillips said, having been farmed out on loan by his parent club.
“For me, it was just the style of play I was playing.
“The defender kicked the ball, flick it on, you run onto it – you don’t really get to prove anything, you know?
“Also, at that time I was trying to find myself as a player. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a player that runs at people, takes people on, creates.
“Now I know, I’ve accepted I am good in the box and that’s where I try and do my work.
“I got an opportunity to come here and I promised myself that I would work hard in training and really put my head down and try and just play well and score goals.
“It has worked out so far.”
Things have been going well for years now after an at times frustrating start to his career.
Wright-Phillips followed in the footsteps of brother Shaun – who would also go on to play for the Red Bulls – by progressing through Manchester City’s youth system, before a topsy-turvy spell at Championship side Southampton.
Periods with Plymouth, Charlton and Brentford followed before finding himself unemployed in 2013.
The striker joined the Red Bulls that summer and is now in his sixth MLS season, looking for collective glory having flourished individually.
“I am proud but there’s still goals I want to reach,” Wright-Phillips said.
“I want to get as many goals as I can, and I also want to win an MLS Cup.
“I feel like a legacy is nothing when you don’t win anything. People talk about (Lionel) Messi and they say he is the greatest but hasn’t won a World Cup.
“I am not one of those people, but I would love to win that for the fans here.”
Wright-Phillips was agonisingly close to helping the Red Bulls to the CONCACAF Champions League final, only to just fall short against Guadalajara in this month’s semi-finals.
On the domestic front, things have started brightly as the striker loves life on the field as well as off it.
“Sometimes I find myself saying soccer, but I always correct myself and say football,” the New Jersey resident said. “I am English, man!
“It’s good out here. If I can live out here forever, I will.”