25 February 2010
Wayne Bridge is being quite clever, or at least, his lawyer who released the statement is. By declaring himself unavailable for the England team for the foreseeable future, and probably forever, the Manchester City defender has put supporters into a mild panic.
With the first choice Ashley Cole nursing a broken ankle and a bruised ego, Bridge was the natural next in line for the left back slot. Suddenly, with the two default left backs unavailable, we start scrabbling around for another one who can, as the footballing cliché would have it, "step up to the plate". And an England defence with Leighton Baines or Stephen Warnock in it suddenly looks weak.
Meanwhile, to give the non-footballists a place in the argument, it does seem a trifle unfair that Bridge, the wronged party in the whole John Terry affair (need better word here), should be the one to sacrifice his international career, albeit an international career that has spent most of its decade sitting on the bench wondering if Cole may ever be as bad at football as he is at retaining his underpants.
Terry has lost the captaincy, but retains his place in the side. Bridge now loses his England career but retains his public integrity. My guess is that football people will side with Terry and non-football people with Bridge. Ultimately, it boils down to whether winning the World Cup is important to you and, sadly for me, it is. Therefore give me Terry in the team ahead of Bridge's moral stance any day. Fabio Capello clearly agrees, otherwise he'd have told Terry it was his place in the squad, not just his armband, that he was taking from him.
And, beyond all that, it's likely that Cole will be fully recovered both as an athlete and as a member of the human race by the time the real business in South Africa gets underway. All Bridge has achieved is public sympathy, which is no bad thing to have, but ultimately as a fringe player, a back-up, it was all he was ever going to get even if he'd stuck it out, played a few England friendlies while Cole's ankle healed and refused to sit at the same end of the dining table as Terry afterwards.