The most decorated player in New York Red Bulls history looks set to come home.
Shortly after announcing his retirement through social media on Tuesday afternoon, news broke that Bradley Wright-Phillips will be returning to the Red Bulls in a front office capacity. Chris Smith of 90Min first broke the news that the Englishman would be taking on a “recruitment” role as the club rebuilds its front office in the wake of head of sport Kevin Thelwell’s departure last month. A source later confirmed to OaM that Wright-Phillips will indeed be taking on a still to-be-determined position with New York but was not a candidate to be the next head of sport.
Wright-Phillips, who turns 37 next month, needs little introduction to New York fans. The two-time league golden boot winner is arguably the most important player in the club’s history, and the news of his return to the organization has already been met with euphoric reaction online. Wright-Phillips, who scored 108 league goals over seven seasons with the Red Bulls and had his number 99 jersey retired while still playing, left New York following a difficult 2019 season before closing out his career with single-season stints at Los Angeles FC and Columbus Crew.
A recruitment role would be one Wright-Phillips has close first-hand understanding of from his playing career. Wright-Phillips arrived in New York initially as a trialist in 2013 after spending the first half of his career struggling to find a stable home in the English football pyramid, journeying between five clubs at various Football League levels. Wright-Phillips has spoken with detail in the past about the difficulties of finding success in the hyper-competitive, high-stakes English professional divisions and recently said in an interview with the Counter Attack podcast that he would like to play a role in the future with helping more British talent break into Major League Soccer.
Such a project is one Wright-Phillips will be well-positioned to build on for the Red Bulls. Despite his recent exit to Everton, Kevin Thelwell established a fruitful pipeline from the British top divisions to New York. As noted by OaM’s Ross Haley in 2020, the constant churn of the English leagues makes it a fruitful theater for finding dislodged talent willing to take a chance at a career in another anglophone country where prestige and salaries are increasing. Englishmen Dru Yearwood and Tom Edwards — both stalled in the early 20s after bursting on the professional scene as teenagers — have been successes in New York, while recently-signed loanee Ashley Fletcher very much fits the BWP profile of league-bouncing journeyman ready to taste stability in MLS.
But that’s all a sideshow here, really — the important part is that the G.O.A.T looks set to be back in red and white soon, surely an emotional moment for the club’s faithful. Coming on the heels of two road victories to start 2022, it turns out there actually is room to raise morale even further in Harrison.