'A man who has taken as much as he can bear'
Published 26/02/2010 | 05:00
There are many who will call Wayne Bridge a wimp, a deserter or just plain unpatriotic for abandoning England when they are down to their last decent left-back with a World Cup finals about to start in less than four months' time.
But what they fail to understand is that Bridge cannot bear to spend a moment in the company of John Terry, a former friend and team-mate whom he now simply loathes. As for knocking about a hotel with Terry for the best part of six weeks, it is a prospect that Bridge has weighed up every day for the last five weeks and found impossible to stomach.
It is a great pity that Bridge has chosen to jack in his England career, not least because after Ashley Cole he is easily the best left-back the country has, no matter what is said about the merits of Leighton Baines or Stephen Warnock. It is a shame that a player at the age of 29 quits when he still has the prospect of his finest hour ahead of him.
But Bridge is perfectly entitled to take the stance he has and when the full story of Terry and Bridge's ex-fiancee Vanessa Perroncel emerges there may be a few more who realise just why he does not want anything to do with the former England captain.
In the meantime, it can safely be assumed that this was a decision Bridge took neither lightly nor in haste. He did so having considered the wrongs he believed were dealt him from people he was entitled to expect a level of decency from. He recognised that in some quarters he would be regarded as weak or lovesick or perhaps even weirdly controlling, trying to dictate to his ex who she could or could not sleep with.
But the bottom line is that Bridge is simply not prepared to make up and shake Terry's hand, to lark about with him in those mindless training ground warm-ups so beloved of professional footballers. He is not prepared to sit in the same dressing room as Terry and pretend that he can be his mate. He is making a stand.
He is not daft either, he knows that if it came to a straight choice for Capello between Terry and Bridge it would be Terry every time. He does not want to walk back into the England team hotel and subject himself to the law of the group and put differences aside for the team's good.
Those close to Bridge say that he wants, if even just for a few days, to make life difficult for Terry. Bridge wants people to know that what was said and done in private was wrong; wrong to the extent that he is prepared to sacrifice playing at a World Cup finals in order to make the point.
What a pity for England it came to that, especially with Capello already missing Cole. What a shame for Bridge, a decent player who will probably be remembered for this saga above all. It does not make him a bad person, just someone who had taken about as much as he could bear and decided he needed to make his point.
And while Bridge might have bristled at the suggestion at the time, affronted by the perception that he was happy with his billing as Ashley Cole's understudy, he would gladly rewind the clock to when that was his claim to fame. He has always been content with a life in the shadows.
But once the revelations of Perroncel's affair with Terry were made public, Bridge was dragged into the intense glare of celebrity spotlight that he has done so much to shun. Bridge is now one of English football's most recognisable faces for something beyond his control.
At least when he was dogged by the 'Cole understudy' tag, it was due only to his football ability, and being regarded as second best to arguably the world's No 1 left-back is no insult. Until Terry's attempt to prevent publication of the revelations of his affair was lifted last month Bridge was perhaps the most anonymous England international in the Premier League.
Had he walked down Manchester's King Street, the venue of choice for the city's small band of paparazzi, the 29- year-old would not have prompted one click of a photographer's lens.
Most £12m defenders with almost 40 England caps and two Premier League winners' medals in the cabinet would be guaranteed a place among the soccerati. But Bridge is described by some at City as the type of guy you would not really notice.
A reluctant interviewee, Bridge will nevertheless always do whatever is asked of him by club officials. The adjectives that come back when Bridge is mentioned are pleasant, likeable and polite. He is Mr Average within a dressing room of stars, but while he can be shy in public, he is known to have a dry sense of humour and his team-mates regard him as a solid, reliable colleague -- two qualities Bridge once saw in Terry.
The fact that he shared an adviser, Aaron Lincoln, with Terry until last summer underlines the friendship he once had with the former England captain. When Terry was contemplating leaving Chelsea for City last summer, Bridge's presence at Eastlands almost swung the deal in City's favour.
The two are due to come face-to-face at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, even if Bridge declines the opportunity to shake Terry's hand. All eyes will be on Bridge -- and that is the one thing he enjoys least of all. He could get away with being anonymous when he was Chelsea's second-best left-back, but his new-found notoriety ensures he cannot escape the glare of publicity. (© Independent News Service)