The Monday Profile: Bradley Wright-Phillips
“He’s better than Shaun, he’s better than Sha-au-un, Bradley Wright-Phillips, he’s better than Shaun”. Or so Plymouth fans became accustomed to singing in the few months leading to the Londoner’s recent move homewards to League One rivals Charlton. But, as an Argyle fan, I have a confession to make. Tongue-in-cheek as that chant was meant to be, I always found myself disagreeing with a petulant shake of the head. “Well no, he clearly isn’t”, I muttered to the Old Man on several occasions. BWP really didn’t float my boat and I was glad to see the back of him.
Signed by Paul Sturrock in the summer of 2009 after an ignominious few seasons at St Mary’s, Wright-Phillips was ruled out for the majority of his debut term with the Pilgrims after suffering a knee injury in a late pre-season game. Symptomatic of his new employer’s torrid luck (not to mention their shambolic business management), we were to shell out a pretty penny in wages for a player that a League One team couldn’t wait to rid themselves of. Wright-Phillips would go on to do next to nothing as we ourselves limped towards the third tier, notable only for his part in the single worst Argyle performance I have ever had the misfortune to witness.
A summer of cutbacks suggested that Wright-Phillips would be on his way as soon as a buyer could be located, but his salary proved a stumbling block. Starting the current season on the bench it was assumed that, unless another club was willing to loan BWP for a percentage of his wages (a la Damien Johnson), he’d simply fester in the Reserves for this, the second half of his two year contract. Injuries and poor form forced Peter Reid’s hand, however, and Wright-Phillips played a blinder in his return to the first-team, an exhilarating 3-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday.
He was to carry that form through to the end of his time in Devon, notching 17 goals in total across league and cup. Particular highlights included an orgasmic winning header in the embers of a see-saw evening game at Swindon and a Craig Noone-assisted brace against Exeter in December. But for all the goals and the joy that his appearance in the scoring charts brought this season, I was still left feeling distinctly unperturbed by his January exit.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the long list of more talented players that we’ve seen exit Home Park over recent seasons. David Norris, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, àkos Buzsà¡ky, Peter Halmosi and Noone’s departures, but to name a few, all affected me in different ways, and to some extent a supporter can only take so much disappointment before he or she begins to feel numbed to the potential for future loss. Yet with BWP it was more than that; in possession of genuine attacking threat and unspeakably good at losing his marker, he was a class act for Argyle this year, but in the end his strange body language (the Balotelli of League One my fellow blogger William Abbs has labelled him) and lack of any discernable attachment with Plymouth or its football club meant that I couldn’t really care where he ended up. He was simply a goal scorer on hire.
So he’s signed for the Addicks after Reading pulled out of a deal for reasons relating to that dicky knee, and his record in front of goal has been exemplary thus far. Yet, taking a look at Charlton Blog Blackheath Addicted, it seems like I’m not the only one to question his worth beyond the finishing. Despite the chant from the terraces, perhaps Wright-Phillips is just impossible to love?