MARTIN SAMUEL: Left back at home, Wayne Bridge let nobody down

26 February 2010 07:58
There will be those who say Wayne Bridge let his country down yesterday. That by withdrawing from the England team in World Cup year, particularly over a personal matter, he has taken the easy way out, shrugging his shoulders and belittling the shirt as surely as if he had wiped his shoes on it as he passed through the door.

They will not understand why Bridge could not separate the emotional from the personal. Why he could not plaster on a fake smile as he pulled on his white shirt and affect kinship with a colleague he plainly cannot stand.

Right, I'm off: Wayne Bridge leaves City training after dropping his bombshell

You don't have to like each other, they will say, and this much is true. It helps, however, if you do not openly despise a team-mate, as Bridge does John Terry. It helps if your fractured friendship is not preoccupying your mind each time you see him, as it plainly is.

Bridge is spending too much time on this for it to be healthy. He is giving thought to whether to shake Terry's hand when they meet on the Stamford Bridge pitch tomorrow, he will be wondering what might happen if they come together when the game begins. 

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So Bridge has withdrawn from the England squad, probably for good, considering he and Terry were born four months and two days apart (Terry is younger). For a girl, you can hear the heavy mob sneer. He did this over a girl. Well, not entirely. Bridge did this for himself, and for England, too.

He is better off out of it, and England are better off without him, if he cannot remove his personal circumstances from his professional existence. And he obviously cannot: because he has not made this decision lightly.

Weeks have passed since Bridge discovered Terry, his friend andcolleague, was having an affair with his ex-partner, yet if anythinghis anger has intensified. Roberto Mancini, his manager at ManchesterCity, at first said he was convinced Bridge would put it behind him torepresent England, yet even after the injury to first-choice left backAshley Cole made it certain he would start against Egypt next week andperhaps beyond, it became clear Bridge was finding the issue difficultto resolve. With the squad due to be named on Saturday, Bridge had tomake a decision and his choice should be respected. His explanation,that his presence in the England camp would be divisive, is honourable.

Happier times: John Terry (left) and Wayne Bridge in England training in 2006

Privately, he has told friends he could not stand to be around Terryfor a month or more, particularly if Cole is fit and playing, givinghim little to occupy his mind. England travel to South Africa as asquad, but there is obviously greater status for those in the team: asummer of Terry the star and Bridge the understudy was considered onehumiliation too many.

It is easy for the dispassionate to focus on Bridge's separation from Vanessa Perroncel and demand he forgives and forgets for the good of his team, but behind this public soap opera are real people and real lives. We have no knowledge of the specific circumstances that motivate Bridge's feelings of betrayal. It could be he hoped for reconciliation or at least a more stable existence for the child they had together and Terry, as a friend, knew this.

Team mates: John Terry and Frank Lampard during training at Chelsea

Whatever, we must recognise his choice and the time he has afforded England to prepare without him. It is not his fault that Cole is injured. It does not deflect from the rawness of his experience.

What this also confirms is that Capello made the right call onTerry. The bottom line is he has caused a fissure in the squad that hasresulted in the loss of a team-mate. If his captaincy had survived

Capello's initial inquest, it would surely not have survived Bridge'sannouncement yesterday.

If Terry was still captain the camp would nowbe in chaos. It undeniably helps that Capello will no longer be askingplayers to line up behind him. They can rub along with Terry as ateam-mate, or not, but after this he could not serve as a figurehead.

Capello was also correct to insist that issues between Bridge and Terrywere confronted before they reported to the England training camp onSunday night. A weaker man might have let the situation drift orfester; by ordering it dealt with, Capello brought the matter to a head.

He had to know where Bridge stood; even if the news was bad. It was astraightforward plan: pick him, or at least announce he would bepicked, and see whether he turned up. If he did, then the matter wouldbe considered forgotten, if he did not, Capello would have his answer.Now he will choose between Stephen Warnock, Leighton Baines or JamesMilner, out of position.

When Cole is fit, Bridge is engaged in a battle for second place, anyway. Throughout this debacle Capello has looked to some like a moralist, but it was the pragmatist that removed Terry's armband but not his name on the team-sheet. Capello knew which player he wanted on the field at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on June 12.

Bridge knew, too. An attempt was made to persuade him to reconsider by Franco Baldini, Capello's assistant, but Bridge understood that if Cole is fit, he will be relegated to the margins by the time the World Cup starts. And that is what gnawed at him, the thought of being a figure in the shadows, alone with his thoughts, and his growing resentment of a colleague.

Unhealthy for him, unhealthy for England. He let nobody down. In the circumstances, he did the right thing.

 England boss Fabio Capello hopes to persuade Wayne Bridge to join World Cup squadBridge calls time on England as full-back fears 'divisive' Terry reunionKop that! Liverpool legend Johnston blasts 'selfish' Terry over Bridge's exit Bridge and Terry snubbed our help to make peace, reveals PFA chief TaylorAston Villa star Warnock ready to answer England's left-back SOS


Source: Daily_Mail