Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wayne Bridge in the first major interview of his professional career : Roberto Mancini obviously doesn't know me very well

Wayne Bridge is not after  sympathy - all he wants is an opportunity to put across his side of the story. This is the former England defender's considered response to Roberto Mancini's criticism after two years largely spent in exile.

Mancini claims the Manchester City defender is motivated by money, pulling in £95,000 a week and spending Saturday afternoons down at the driving range. Golf is his big thing, according to Mancini; swinging clubs is his priority instead of trying to find one to take on his super-sized salary.

'Roberto Mancini obviously doesn't know me very well because I don't play golf,' revealed Bridge in the first major interview of his professional career.

Given the freedom and platform to express himself, Bridge has laid bare his frustrations after so long in isolation, an isolation that has seen him spend a month at a time training with the kids at City.

It is all here - his relationship with Mancini and his thoughts on walking away from England after John Terry's alleged affair with Bridge's ex-girlfriend and mother of his son.

He has nothing left to lose now, not after Mancini poked fun at him in a pre-determined attack ahead of City's Barclays Premier League fixture with Stoke City last Wednesday.

'When I was at Chelsea I was playing for a team where Ashley Cole was the best in the world and I still got games. It won't happen at City. There has never been an explanation, but it's obvious they don't want me.

'Mancini doesn't really speak to me, he doesn't really speak to any of the players. The only time I've known a player isolated like this was Winston  Bogarde at Chelsea. Usually you still train with the first team, even when they want you out.'

Bridge, 31, has played just once for City this season - a Carling Cup third-round tie against Birmingham - and has barely featured in first-team training. Most days he arrives early, working out in the gym at City's Carrington training complex to vent his frustrations before he joins the kids again. That is the daily routine: walking out on to the training pitches to join the youngsters, alone with his thoughts and willing himself to get through another soul-destroying session.

'I've never caused trouble, I'm not that kind of character,' he said. 'There will be days when I'm  frustrated - not depressed, but down. Training helps take my mind off the fact that I don't play.
'I don't like confrontation, to be honest. It takes a while for me to lose it, but when I do…

'Some players are totally different to me - they would phone the manager and say things there and then. I just get on with things and hope they resolve themselves. Even when I'm playing I just like to get on with my own life. 'If I kicked up a fuss I might have got out easier.'

That is the plan, negotiating with City to secure his release in the January transfer window. He has been training hard and his five per cent body fat - the lowest at City - is unlikely to be troubled by the home-made chocolate cake his popstar girlfriend Frankie is serving.

'I feel I am letting my mum and dad down and they basically live for following me around and watching me play football.

'I hate that my parents can't come and watch me or Frankie, who loves to watch football, can't come with her mum and dad.

'It is like I am letting them down as well because they are so proud to see me out there playing. They have been really supportive.

'They are people I can call when I am down. They cheer me up straight away and slap me back into place. Aaron Lincoln, my agent, has been amazing.

'Everyone has been so supportive and they can all tell when I have been down.'
There has been talk of Arsenal taking him on loan and there has been interest from Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He desperately wants to get away, to rediscover the zest for the game that took him to the very top.

Bridge played in the 2003 FA Cup final for Southampton and went on to win two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and the League Cup with Chelsea. Inevitably he regards Jose Mourinho as the best manager he played under. His eyes light up with the memories of a glorious goal against Arsenal in the 2004 Champions League quarter-final at Highbury, and a beauty he scored against Portsmouth the previous season.

'There was a time when I could have gone to Portsmouth on loan, but I had to say no - my dad's Southampton and I grew up supporting them. Dad would never have spoken to me again.'

This is the old Bridge, bounding with enthusiasm as he talks about the games that earned him 36 caps before he retired from international football in a storm of publicity last year.

He misses England, but maintains he was left with no alternative after refusing to shake Terry's hand when City travelled to Stamford Bridge in February 2010.

'Everyone misses being an international when they don't play. It is the thing everyone wants to be - an England international. When you start playing professional football it is the next step.

'It has been difficult for me over the last couple of years football-wise - I have not played great and personal stuff that had gone on. I don't want to talk too much about it. I don't want to bring up the situation that happened because I didn't talk about it at the time and what's the point?
'If I had gone to the World Cup it would have been an absolute media frenzy. I probably could talk about it one day, but at this precise moment I don't think it is going to help me and I don't think it's going to help anyone else who was involved.

'I had never been in the press before. Then I was and everyone had an opinion about it. It was like I felt, "Just leave me to get on with it". Some were  supportive and some weren't. That's just the way it is. But I got a lot of support and I am thankful for the support I did get. I can deal with it. Everyone was talking about it and I just didn't want to talk about it.

'At the time, (England manager) Fabio Capello called me two or three times but it wasn't right. 'My personal life has got better. I am happy at the moment and the football has got to get better in January.'
He is expecting to move and is prepared for the next phase of his career.

'My next move has to be right for me. I'd rather play three games a week than none, but I'm  entitled to leave. City claimed I'm only at the club for the money, but when it comes to the deal to let me go, it becomes about the money for them.'

After this, it is time for City to do the right thing. 

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