Bradley Wright-Phillips got married a couple of weeks ago. The ceremony was attended by friends and family, including brother Shaun, out-of-contract but a well-regarded footballer in his own right.
So it wasn't a huge surprise when BigAppleSoccer.com reported SWP had found his way into a training session with the New York Red Bulls. Professional teams don't let just anyone join their practices, but brother Bradley presumably can vouch for his own brother, and Shaun was once thought to be a very good player - he has the England caps (36) and trophies (2005-06 Premier League title with Chelsea; FA Cup winner in 2007 with Chelsea and 2011 with Manchester City) to prove it.
So when Jesse Marsch told Kristian Dyer on June 15 that SWP was only in training to get some fitness work in, we had reason to believe him. On June 22, the club was still saying this was just a way for Wright-Phillips to stay sharp. On June 23, Marsch was telling BigAppleSoccer.com how good his guest was looking in training:
You see when he gets chances to hit a shot or set-up a little play that he's sharp in that way. It's been fun having him here. I think he's had a good impact on the team – anytime you have a big-time player there's excitement in playing with him, training. He's come here and worked hard to get his fitness going. It's been fun having him.
Fitness. Huh. SWP hardly played for Queens Park Rangers in the 2014-15 season. He was out of favor and the club was quite open about its desire to see him move on. He made only four appearances - three off the bench - for QPR all season. Sure, SWP hasn't been "match-fit" for a while, but he made the bench a few times for his club, and his last appearance was four minutes on May 10 at the end of the game QPR lost 6-0 to Manchester City.
That was 36 days before he turned up at the Red Bulls' training facility. If he stuck around with QPR until the end of the club's season, he was in a professional soccer set-up until May 24: 22 days before he started working out with RBNY. And if he isn't just coincidentally stopping by to see his brother and his teammates on those occasions when Kristian Dyer is around to see him, SWP has been kicking it with the Red Bulls for about 15 days now.
Small wonder Dyer's most recent report - detailing a June 29 SWP sighting - now puts inverted commas around "fitness". Wright-Phillips probably wasn't that out of shape to begin with, and he shouldn't be that far off the pace at this point.
Rumors that RBNY and SWP are talking about more than workout routines are, unsurprisingly, out there:
@MLSTransfers Yeah, that's a good way to look at it— Michael Lewis (@Soccerwriter) June 29, 2015
It should be noted that Ali Curtis has said the club is not interested in players "just kind of at the end of their careers." But in the same interview, he also noted "there's always slight nuances, parameters and boxes you want checked," which might be interpreted as not entirely ruling out the possibility of signing a 33-year-old winger who could hardly get a game for his club last season.
Per Kristian Dyer, the club continues to look at official trialists Will Packwood and Devon "Speedy" Williams. Back on June 24, EmpireOfSoccer.com reported Trey Williams (a former QPR youth prospect), Andre Fortune (a Trinidad and Tobago youth international), and Speedy Williams were working with NYRB II. The latter player would appear to have worked his way back up to another look from the MLS side, and it is clear RBNY is looking to add a few new faces to the squad - the recent decision to cut Andrew Jean-Baptiste means there are now two MLS roster spaces available.
Whether SWP fills one of them remains to be seen, but the club isn't going to be able to convincingly use the "fitness" line to explain his presence at the training facility for much longer.