Thursday, 25 February 2010

I got it wrong calling Bridge a wimp on Sky News. He's done the honourable thing. Unlike John Terry

I GOT IT wrong on Sky News this morning. I called Wayne Bridge a wimp when they rushed me in to Isleworth for a first response to the news. The statement was gloriously straightfoward and to the point. And it has got the entire football-speaking world talking.
The Manchester City left back, this week backed for a World Cup berth by coach Fabio Capello, said: "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.
"It has always been an honour to play for England. However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive.
"Sadly therefore 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 have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the very best in South Africa."
First thought? This has happened to me. When my twins, now 22, were three, their mother left me for a younger bloke, the brother of a friend. All his mates played for the French Horn, our rival team in the village. On the common a few Sundays later, we had to play them. Everybody knew the story. I wanted to kill the guy and his mates. He had relentlessly pursued my wife knowing she was suffering from post-natal depression.
I wanted to run away, never mind walk away like Bridge. But I knuckled down, played the game, got through it. Proved I still had a life, pride, honour. The guy's still out there, my ex-wife and I are friends but I brought the kids up without her support for 18 years. I'd still like to catch him in a dark alley. He knows who he is. But that game, that confrontation - not without its flare-ups - helped me get through it.
And that's what I thought Bridge should have done. Knuckle down, confront the demon Terry, a former best-mate (see picture above) who had an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the mother of his child.
So I told the world (at least that tiny bit of it which watches Sky News) I thought Bridge had wimped out. It was re-run several times this afternoon. Ah, the expert analyst. Superb. Not.
Tracy, my new wife, took me to task. She feels Bridge has done the honourable thing. Withdrawn to give England a chance. To keep the dressing room on a level keel.
Whether Bridge plays for Manchester City against his old team and former best pal this weekend is not the point.
What he's done, she said, is sacrificed his place at the World Cup for England's sake. I saw it in that awful masculine way. By standing down he had let Terry humiliate him again.
Wrong. Terry should have been the one to withdraw but as he hasn't and is such an important part of the World Cup plan for Fabio Capello, Bridge made the brave decision to walk away.
Imagine the pain that bloke has been through. Nobody is actually sure when the affair between Terry and Perroncel began. But it ended in an abortion and a pay-off. Whether Bridge had actually moved up north by the time Terry started his diversions on the way home from training or not, we don't know. But the flirting had been going on for months.
There was talk of other affairs, of further lurid details, but all that came to a halt when Perroncel and publicist Max Clifford decided not to run with her side of the story amid rumours of a £750,000 pay off.
We will never know the full extent of Terry's betrayal. And remember, Perroncel was close to his wife Toni, mother of twins of a similar age to his boy, too.
Bridge's heart is broken. His spirit low. Trust in Terry, the senior player, crushed. But he has returned to play for City and his boss Roberto Mancini insists he is the best left back in the country with Ashley Cole, another Chelsea man of loose morals, out following ankle surgery.
But when the side to play Egypt next Wednesday is picked on Saturday night, Leighton Baines is likely to get the call now. Bridge has given up his chance of immortality in South Africa this summer.
And for that he must be applauded. Quite how we greet Terry at Wembley next Wednesday I'm not sure. But here's a thought. If Terry, forced out as captain over this whole tawdry affair, gets injured before the World Cup, will Bridge return?
I for one certainly hope so.


  1. Brilliant post Neal, enjoyed it a lot, and I can see why you've changed your standpoint.

    However, you've changed your mind now on three big sports stories recently: Tigergate, JT as captain, and now Bridge.... the changing world of sport hey!

    have a great weekend.

  2. Great post, Neal. Enjoy reading your posts as the build up to the World Cup continues. Keep up the good work.

    Larry Linton (Toronto, Canada)

  3. Glad somebody appreciates it! Watching England v Ireland from a birthday party at Wynnstay Hall near Wrexham in Wales. Middle of nowhere!