You can but feel sorry for Wayne Bridge.

In case you missed it, the Manchester City full-back released a statement through his lawyers yesterday morning in which he announced his wish to not be considered for England selection.

He wrote ‘after careful thought, I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive…I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection…I wish the team all the very best in South Africa‘.

Ouch. What a pity for Wayne Bridge, that just four months before the start of a World Cup, he has seen no alternative but to rule himself out of the tournament. Because of this decision, there is now a sense of injustice about the whole fiasco, from which the left-back will ellicit some serious sympathy.

Footballers and the lives that they live may seem a kin to something out of a Hollywood blockbuster and the parties, fast cars and mansions may seem to alienate them from the ‘common man’. But if you take the time to carefully consider the personal position Bridge finds himself in, it is easy to see why the full-back made the decision he did. Let me explain:

You are one of a group of friends who have been planning a holiday in Miami for the past two years. Months before you are due to depart, one of your married mates has an affair with your girlfriend, a woman with whom you have a young child. This is a situation which bares very real similarities with Terry-gate – and you are the Wayne Bridge character.

How would you react? Would you carry on as though nothing had happened and attempt to make peace with the man your partner had slept with? Or would you try and avoid the guy at all costs? Would you go on the holiday? Or, for the sake of your other friends, would you rip up your ticket and tell your mates that you just want them to go away, have a good time and not have to be caught up in the middle of this awful mess?

Some people in this position would be consumed by heartbreak. They would convince themselves that they would never again allow themselves to be hurt in the same manner; inspired by the scars of victimhood to take a more self-centred path forward. This type of person would go on the holiday and would take the fight directly to the friend that had betrayed them.

Some people would go on the holiday but would stay well out of the way of the friend-turned-foe, as much as was feasibly possible. Many people though, would react just as Wayne Bridge has to the scandal involving John Terry – they would pull out of the holiday.

Bridge’s statement made it clear that he believed his presence in any future England squad would be ‘divisive’. From this we can strongly infer that the Manchester City full-back knows that there would be an awkward siding of loyalties if himself and John Terry featured in the same squad (let alone team). This basic inference is the strongest indication yet to emerge from the England camp that certain players have pledged their allegiances to Bridge personally and have told him that they are his friend and not John Terry’s.

By taking himself out of the hat for national selection, Bridge has attempted to make life easier for his England team-mates. Without the left-back in South Africa, they will not have to field awkard questions from journalists concerning team spirit and they will not have to constantly be thinking about what they can and cannot say when they all sit down to dinner at a nightime. Of course this is probably not the only reason Bridge has pulled out, the chances are he just does not want to be around John Terry; (it is understandable but) obviously it sounds better though, if you say you are not going to because you don’t want to cause distractions to your teammates.

What is most interesting about Bridge’s decision is how it has changed people’s perspective on John Terry.

In the initial aftermath of the revelations, many people wanted John Terry to be stripped of the captaincy but nobody really questioned his place in the national squad. It was just presumed that the two ex-Chelsea colleagues would be able to co-exist and ‘get on with it’ as part of the same squad. Now that Wayne Bridge has deemed it necessary to rule himself out of the World Cup though, there seems to be an injustice that Terry shall be going to South Africa and Bridge will not – a seemingly strange situation as the former England captain is (if we are to apply characters here) the villain of the piece. Now that Bridge has made it clear he thinks his place in the national team squad is ‘untenable‘, a lot of people’s opinion of John Terry has worsened. They are now making it clear that if anybody should be missing out on the World Cup, surely it should be the centre-back.

It is worth bringing back into consideration, the aforementioned scenario when you took on the Wayne Bridge character. Now though, change character and become one of the other friends. Ask yourself this, which of the two mates involved in the affair would you want with you on the plane to Miami? The married friend who had caused such a rupture amongst your group of pals? Or the mate who had been cheated on?

Now I know the issue is not nearly as black and white as this. But most groups of friends would turn their back on their former friend who had cheated and would not want him on the holiday, instead preferring to take their cheated-upon mate instead.

The England players are professional footballers and they are assembled essentially to do a job, so the position they find themselves in is different from the scenario of the friends going on holiday, but if there really are players in the national squad who have sided with Wayne Bridge and feel sorry for the man, then it will be extremely interesting to see if any of them speak out in the wake of the full-back’s decision to not go to South Africa. The World Cup is the pinnacle of any footballer’s career; some of the England players may just be a little angry at John Terry for causing Wayne Bridge to make such a dramatic decision.  

Oh! To be a fly on the wall when Fabio Capello rounds up his charges for a meeting at the Grove Hotel near Watford on Monday.

By Ross A. Fox


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