Bridge: I have to get out of city
WAYNE BRIDGE has kept his silence through varying degrees of humiliation at Manchester City, but the time came this week when he felt he finally had to speak out, if only to defend himself as a professional footballer.
To say he has been frozen out by Roberto Mancini would be an understatement. It has not been cold for him at City; it has been glacial.
Bridge spends most of his time training "with the kids," as he explains it, occasionally being pulled in with the first team to make up the numbers.
The one-year anniversary of his last Premier League outing for City is on Wednesday. He has played once this season, in the Carling Cup against Birmingham City in September.
The final straw, however, was when Mancini announced this week that he did not know what Bridge did on Saturdays. "Play golf?" the City manager suggested.
For the record, Bridge does not own a set of clubs, much less have a membership of a Cheshire golf club and, on his days off, he trains hard in expectation of hitting the ground running with a new club next month.
He has kept in shape: his body fat measurement is one of the lowest in the City squad.
Naturally shy of the press, he has not spoken since the media firestorm involving John Terry and the Chelsea captain's alleged affair with Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel, which led to Bridge's early retirement from international football. Even before then he was not exactly an enthusiastic interviewee.
When we met yesterday at his home it was with a heavy heart that Bridge (31) broke his silence. He felt he had no other option. "The remark by Mancini about golf was a dig," he says. "He doesn't know me that well, because I don't play golf. On my days off I go for a run.
"I train harder than he is making out. I do a bit extra. I go into the gym before training. I do yoga. It hurts because I live for football. I've been a professional since I was 17.
"Every now and then they call me over to train with the first team. Ade (Emmanuel Adebayor), Bellers (Craig Bellamy), Nedum (Onuoha), Shay (Given) and me trained with the kids in pre-season.
"The only time I've known a player isolated like this was Winston Bogarde at Chelsea. Usually you still train with the first team, even when they want you out.
"I feel like I could do the job. When I was at Chelsea I thought I played well even when Ashley Cole was there. I have not been given the chances (at City). I'm as good as the the club's other left-backs (Aleksander Kolarov, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta).
"It is hard to go into training every day when you don't feel part of it, but I have got used to dealing with it and I'm waiting for January to come.
"There has never been an explanation, but it's obvious they don't want me. Mancini doesn't really speak to me -- he doesn't really speak to any of the players. David Platt (Mancini's assistant) has spoken to me about options, but that's it really."
There have been enquiries for Bridge. He played for West Ham United on loan in the second half of last season, but when it came to making the deal permanent, it could not be done.
The issue with Bridge is his wages -- he has 18 months left on a £90,000-a -week contract -- and, while City have subsidised the likes of Adebayor on loan at Spurs -- or done a deal on Bellamy's contract -- they have not been prepared to do the same with Bridge.
As for the prospective move to Celtic in the summer mentioned by Mancini, it was a deal that suited City, but not Bridge, which is why he rejected it.
Bridge believes he is entitled to the money in the contract agreed with City when he joined from Chelsea for £12m in January 2009, but, as he says himself, he would "rather play three games a week than none."
"I've never caused trouble -- I'm not that kind of character. I don't like confrontation.
"If I kicked up a fuss I might have got out of here easier.
"The money thing hurts me because people think I'm just sat there picking it up. I come from a working-class background. I work hard, but the club have made it difficult for me to leave.
"There have been times where the passion has gone and I feel like I've fallen out of love with the game because I don't get anything out of it. I don't enjoy it. I miss playing.
Bridge's relationship with Mancini is non-existent.
"He is not one of those managers that will put an arm round a player. He is not one of those who will talk to the players or become friendly. He called me lazy, but that is one thing I am not.
"I think a different manager would treat me in a different way. They wouldn't just push me off with the kids and say 'You're gone'. They didn't deal with it great when they were trying to get me out, so it was frustrating.
The Terry episode, which took place almost two years ago, ended in his former friend and Chelsea team-mate being stripped of the England captaincy.
Bridge quit international football as a result and, famously, when they encountered one another in the pre-match handshake queue at Stamford Bridge in February 2010, it was Bridge who avoided Terry's hand.
That is the only public indication, until now, of his feelings about Terry's alleged affair with Perroncel, the mother of Bridge's son, Jayden.
"It has been difficult for me over the last couple of years," Bridge says. "Everything that has happened football-wise... I have not played great and personal stuff that had gone on.
"I don't want to talk too much about it because I don't want to bring up the situation that happened.
"I never talked about it at the time and what's the point? If I had gone to the World Cup finals (in 2010) it would have been an absolute media frenzy."
He is much happier now and is in a new relationship with Frankie Sandford -- part of the girl group The Saturdays, who serves up a mean chocolate cake once the interview is over.
Would Bridge tell his side of the Terry story one day?
"I probably could do. At this precise moment I don't think it is going to help me and I don't think it's going to help anyone else who was involved. I reckon I could write a good book...
The winner of two Premier League medals with Chelsea and 36 England caps, Bridge does not want to be remembered as a non-playing footballer. (© Independent News Service)