It's been a season to remember for Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips .
THE THURSDAY EXCLUSIVE: Shaun Wright-Phillips explains why he tried to do a runner after being voted Manchester City’s Player of the Season.
It’s been a season of firsts for Shaun Wright-Phillips.
He has scored ten goals, received an England call-up and this week was voted Manchester City’s Player of the Season.
"It was absolutely wicked to win something chosen by the fans," he says. "Although we haven’t done well as a team, some of the players have had very good seasons. I thought Richard Dunne or Nicolas (Anelka) would have a chance so I was delighted really."
Even so, Wright-Phillips discovered there is a price to pay for popularity.
He reveals: "When I turned up to the awards party on Monday night, nobody had a clue who was going to win. They certainly didn’t tell me I was going to win and have to make a speech!
"When the announcement was read out, my first reaction was to do a runner so I wouldn’t have to get up and say anything. People know I am quite chatty in certain situations but getting up in front of a microphone in front of a roomful of people is a bit different.
"It went alright in the end though. Although I am not a natural speaker, my secret is to make it quite short so you don’t have time to make any mistakes."
If Wright-Phillips isn’t readyto take part in the Oxford University Debate, he’s graduated with flying colours from the Premiership this season.
The 22-year-old has been City’s brightest light in their unexpected relegation struggle. His classic derby goal against Manchester United, a dipping volley from an acute angle to complete a 4-1 City win, is already the stuff of legend.
In March, he was also called up by Sven Goran Eriksson for England’s game in Sweden. And though he sat on the bench rather than making his debut, he admits it was terrific to be involved.
"It was a really good experience which left me hungry for more," he says. "The standard of football is so good even in training, I really learned something every day I was with the team.
"It’s hard to single England players out because I appreciated watching all of them. Obviously, they are all very good players but they are also model professionals as well.
"My City team-mate David James was out there and it helped that I knew a few of the boys from the under-21s. I spent a lot of time with Jermain Defoe and JLloyd Samuel who I played with at that level."
Pundits have been impressed this season with the strength and purpose in Wright-Phillips’ game on the right-hand side of City’s midfield. At 5ft 5ins, he has proved himself that you don’t need to be a heavyweight to succeed at the top level.
The City player, son of former Arsenal and England favourite Ian Wright, says it’s experience rather than bodybuilding which has made him stronger.
"To be honest, I’m not into weight training. If there is extra work to be done after training, I will practise crossing and shooting," he explains.
"I think a lot of what people call stamina and strength is down to cleverness. As you get older you become wiser and learn when to push, when to put in your effort."
Wright-Phillips’ final club game of his great season is against Everton on Saturday where victory will lift City above their north-west neighbours.
Sven-Goran Eriksson names his Euro 2004 squad on Monday but although the youngster has an outside chance he won’t be overburdening himself with expectation.
"The intention is to round off a disappointing season on a high note against Everton. Our fans deserve to see us finish at home with a win," he says.
"I will just do my normal stuff on Monday. I won’t be sitting waiting by the phone but regardless the squad announcement, I look forward to being part of the England set-up whenever it happens."