Wayne Bridge rejects advice of Man City colleagues over England exit

Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010 by theguardian.com

Wayne Bridge rejects advice of Man City colleagues over England exit
Wayne Bridge will line up against John Terry at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

Wayne Bridge ignored calls from prominent members of the Manchester City dressing room to abandon his plan to make himself unavailable for England, after he told them of his intentions more than a week ago. The defender has resembled a tortured soul since he and the rest of the western world found out about the affair that John Terry, his former Chelsea team-mate and best friend, had with Vanessa Perroncel, Bridge's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son.

Bridge drove himself to distraction as he weighed up the pros and cons of one of the toughest decisions of his life and, as he went through the process, he used the City dressing room as a sounding board. The answer that those closest to him offered merely deepened his angst. To a man, they insisted that he ought to put his ill-feeling towards Terry to one side and follow his dream of representing his country at the World Cup finals in South Africa.

The 29-year-old wobbled again at the start of this week when he heard Fabio Capello, the England manager, speak in glowing terms about what he could contribute to the squad. But he concluded that he simply could not share a dressing room with Terry, particularly not against the backdrop of World Cup pressure and intensity.

Could Bridge yet reconsider? Possibly, if Ashley Cole were not to recover in time for the finals from his broken ankle, although that is unlikely – Chelsea expect him to feature for them before the end of the season – and, certainly, if Terry were to be ruled out for any reason. Any tackles by Bridge on Terry when the players come face to face at Stamford Bridge tomorrow will be watched with interest.

Bridge has enjoyed a groundswell of goodwill from within the game. Some of his City team-mates revealed "Team Bridge" T-shirts after the win over Portsmouth on 31 January and he has received supportive text messages from many players at other clubs, including some from within the Chelsea dressing room, where he remains a popular figure.

He is under no illusions, though, about where the loyalties of the Stamford Bridge crowd will lie. They will back Terry, a man they regard as a leader and legend, through thick and thin, and Bridge might feel as if he were walking into a lions' den .

This is a match rich in subplots. It pits new money against even newer money and Carlo Ancelotti against Roberto Mancini, the managerial friends and former Italy team-mates. It will see Mark Hughes, who was pushed aside by City for Mancini, take his place as a Sky Sports pundit and Capello, too, will be in attendance. There is also the return for City of Carlos Tevez, after his well-documented personal problems concerning the premature birth of his daughter.

Capello has left no one in any doubt about his thoughts on infidelity and the interview that he gave to CNN International on the eve of the game may have made for uncomfortable viewing for Terry. "The younger children look to these players like an example for life," he said. "For that reason, you have to understand that everything that these players make on their personal life is not a good example for children. When I met the players for the first time, I spoke with them and I told them, 'You have to respect all the people that work with me, around us and the other players. I want the respect in every moment'."

Bridge versus Terry, however, has become big box-office and every lens in the stadium will be trained on the pair when the pre-match opportunity for a handshake comes up. Will they, won't they? Even if they do, the gesture will be empty. The scale of Bridge's loathing for Terry has become clear this week and so has the irritation with which Terry has come to consider Bridge. Terry remains bitterly upset to have lost the England captaincy over the affair.

There have been calls for professionalism from both camps. "Wayne wants to play and I think he will play very well," said Mancini today. "There should only be one motivation and that is to play well for the club.

"It was a difficult decision for Wayne but it was his decision and I respect it. I am sorry for him and England because it is important to play for your national team. I thought Wayne would play for the national team but it was his decision and he didn't speak with me."

Ancelotti revealed that he had not spoken to Terry in the wake of Bridge's announcement of his international retirement on Thursday. He did not need to, he explained; he is not interested in off-the-field matters.

"John Terry is professional and he doesn't have a problem to stay focused on the pitch," Chelsea's manager said. "Is this a distraction? I think no way. I don't know how many people are interested in this. For sure, not the players.

"John Terry is still the same in training. He jokes sometimes and he is professional. He knows when to joke and when to be professional." Ancelotti was asked whether the other players had joked with Terry to make light of the scandal. His eyes narrowed. "Never," he replied.

Ancelotti spent the best part of 25 minutes attempting to straight-bat questions about Terry and Bridge. It has been quite a month for Ancelotti, what with the furore over Ashley Cole's alleged infidelities, as well. At one point he slipped into Italian to express his frustration at the line of questioning. Will today's game bring an end to the talking? Do not bet on it.

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