I have previously written, on this very website, that I had been ignoring the Wayne Bridge and John Terry situation. But the events of the past week mean that it’s something that I don’t think I can ignore any longer. Every man/woman/child/other has had their say on it, whether they qualified to or not, so why shouldn’t I?
I missed the handshakes at Stamford Bridge on Saturday because I was just parking my car roughly 220 miles away in Preston. I didn’t get lost on my way to Chelsea and end up in Preston; I just didn’t go to the game because of a social gathering. I did, however, make it to the pub in time to witness one delightfully charming Chelsea fan give Bridge a lovely and heartfelt greeting as he went to take a throw-in on his return to his old stomping ground… It went something like, “You f****** p****.”
It has to be said, though, that a large number of Chelsea fans applauded Bridge when he was substituted. But there were still a lot who seemed to think that he had done something wrong… Y’know, when his close friend and former team-mate had that extra marital affair with his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child, that was, somehow, the City left back’s fault.
Wayne Bridge has done nothing but conduct himself with dignity of the past month. The fact that he has decided to give up his England career over what has happened has shown not only how strongly he feels about this situation, but it has shown him to be a true gentleman. While Terry is in the England team, Bridge’s presence at the camp will, ultimately, be divisive. But, I have to ask, if that’s the case – and, of course, it is going to be – why is it Bridge, the man who has done nothing wrong, that has to lose his chance to represent his country? If somebody should fall on their sword, why is it up to Bridge to do it and, more importantly, why has 95% of the country decided that it’s fine?
I’ll tell you why – it’s because Terry is the more important for the England team. He’s the first choice centre-back and Bridge is the second choice left back. This is the combination that gives England the best chance of winning the World Cup, so of course that’s why people aren’t that fussed that an innocent and wronged man has given up his chance. It just goes to show that football stinks where morals are concerned.
To have journalists, television hosts, radio presenters and both sporting and non-sporting commentators criticise his decision for being selfish is, perhaps, one of the biggest insults they can deliver. I had the (mis)fortune of channel hopping into the segment of the deep thinking and heavy politics based discussion programme Loose Women, where they took time out of discussing the important issues like doing funny voices for kids or snoring to comment on Bridge’s retirement. Not only did the panel with no football background (and little football interest, from what I could gather) decide that his decision was wrong, but that he was acting like a small child, because a couple of them had had disagreements with colleagues in the past and had to carry on working with them.
This decision was to give the team the best chance; effectively, Bridge has said he can’t work with Terry and, if the team is going to function properly, one of them has to go. Since Terry wasn’t going anywhere, Bridge decided he had to give up his international career. And that deserves respect, not criticism. It’s not like giving up crisps or stopping wearing hats, it’s a very big decision. I’m not the best (or in a squad of the best) in my country at anything, but, if I was, it would have to be something very serious to make me want to give that up.
It wasn’t a decision he took lightly. Bridge hasn’t given up his England career on a whim. My personal opinion is that it wasn’t a decision that Bridge should have had to make; if only one of Bridge and Terry could stay in the England squad, it shouldn’t be the one who has done nothing wrong that leaves.
Whether or not Bridge should have an overriding desire to win the World Cup isn’t an issue. If he had gone to South Africa, he would have been in close quarters with a man whose guts he now hates for four weeks – what would that do for team morale? For Bridge’s own morale? For John Terry?
Terry was right to have been stripped of the captaincy. While what has happened off the pitch doesn’t change his ability, it does change his credibility. He’s not this squeaky clean character that has authority over the team; knowing your leader has behaved immorally is going to make you wonder why they should be your leader over somebody else. The level of respect in the dressing room for him, no matter what anybody says to the press, will be the same.
I’m glad that Bridge decided not to shake Terry’s hand. Partly because of what Terry had done, but mainly because I’m a Manchester City fan. And, personally, I think from that moment on, John Terry’s head just wasn’t on the game, which made City’s task easier. Not easy, mind you, winning at Stamford Bridge is never easy (especially if you’ve not even scored there in the last ten years), but easier.
What’s more, I’m glad City’s equalising goal came from a Bridge clearance that was defended calamitously. And the word ‘calamitously’ is still putting a positive spin on it, bearing in mind Tevez had to run a long way with the ball against two defenders faster than him, before he ended up miss-hitting it completely and the goalkeeper forgot to dive, choosing to fall over instead.
In the midst of all this Terry-Bridge stand-off, we seem to have forgotten that a football match happened last Saturday. One where a City victory looked about as likely as finding a man with no eyes wearing prescription glasses, thanks to recent performances by Mancini’s side. But a tough performance in defence and some lethal breakaways (and comedy defending, of course) saw the unlikely happen.
And, on Saturday night, Wayne Bridge will have felt better than he had had for weeks.
Written By David Mooney