Granted, the recent lurid headlines about his former team-mate John Terry’s alleged affair with his former partner Vanessa Perroncel were bound to cause consternation once Bridge came into contact with the Chelsea Captain at the next England get-together. But issuing a statement claiming his presence in the squad would prove divisive is still surprising.
Well I say fair play to Bridge. He has obviously thought the whole scenario through and realised that his mere presence in the squad in South Africa would mean extra paparazzi and tabloid headlines every day the squad trained let alone played.
He knows well that even the slightest interaction with Terry would immediately be screened across the globe and ultimately be a distraction to the squad from their job of retaining a trophy last won in 1966.
“Sadly, for the sake of the team and what would be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection,” commented the former England left-back.
There will be plenty of people who say he is just using the whole affair (pardon the pun) as an excuse to retire and that he wouldn’t have featured in the starting line-up in South Africa anyway.
All true, but look at it from his point of view. Bridge was booed whilst playing against Hull City recently. Why? Because die-hard English fans were furious with him for potentially upsetting John Terry and potentially usurping England’s chances at a World Cup?
Put yourself in his boots for a second. If you play in an amateur or Sunday morning team and one of your fellow players is found out to have been \’playing away’ with your wife or girlfriend.
Would you be comfortable sharing a dressing room with him? The undoubted snide remarks and one-liners that would start flying around would be hard to take and could you even bring yourself to play on the same squad as someone who has gone behind your back?
Now multiply all that unpleasantness by a million and see what Bridge would face during the summer whilst he shared a hotel with Terry. There will no doubt be hundreds of paparazzi outside each and every night looking to elongate the saga just for the sake of selling a few more newspapers.
Wayne Bridge and John Terry were more than team-mates whilst at Chelsea. They lived in close proximity to one another and their families regularly socialised. This must make the whole episode all the more galling for Bridge to deal with.
He’ll see enough of Terry in the coming weeks when Manchester City clash with Chelsea in the league and an idea of what the media attention would be like if the two were in the same English squad this summer will become apparent in the days leading up to, during and after the fixture.
Sky Sports will probably explode with graphics and classical music to accompany the \’showdown’ between the former friends and play up the saga as an excuse to increase their viewership of what is already a pivotal game in the title race anyway.
I think the parental side of Bridge is also coming through as he realises the negative impact even more tabloid coverage of Terry and his former partner’s affair would have on the child he has with Perroncel.
No parent in their right minds would want to have their child at the centre of tabloid headlines and it wouldn’t surprise me if Bridge also considered Terry’s children in this decision too.
Despite comments from Capello and Roberto Mancini that they fully expected Bridge to be a part of the England setup at the World Cup, the former Southampton and Fulham defender has put his own personal feelings and that of his child ahead of winning a World Cup.
“I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks and have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the best in South Africa.”
Bridge was never going to claim the English left back berth whilst Ashley Cole was fit, but he was still Fabio Capello’s most experienced second option in that position.
The Manchester City left-back has not been in inspiring form this season but when Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines are your only other available options, then you can see why Capello has an issue heading into the most important months of his tenure as manager.
Playing for your country at a World Cup final is no doubt the pinnacle of any professional footballer’s ambitions. Wayne Bridge has already been to major tournaments as part of the England setup but has taken a decision to step out this time around.
Rather than face the unpleasantness of a reunion with Terry, Bridge has demonstrated commendable courage and decency for his own sake and the sake of his family. Fair play to him.
Ger McCarthy is author of Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork League junior footballer.