A weather vane? Or a bridge too far?
Feeling a bit bad for the bloke. Wayne Bridge should never have had to retire under such a cloud. He cites his position in the English squad as “untenable and potentially divisive”.
On a pragmatic level, it may not be such a big loss. He looked a bit laboured in the Liverpool match but he was just coming back from an injury layoff. Bridge’s best days are obviously behind him. Which might be be the real reason for his retirement. Then again, his retirement does create a bit of a quandary and one wonders about the timing.
Leighton Baines is the obvious choice. But Fabio Capello might be a bit averse using him. He is a bit too attack minded for the very disciplined Italian coach who has soured on Glen Johnson for the same reasons. Plus, he is plain untested. So I will go against the grain and say that in the absence of Ashley Cole, Bridge would have been his first choice.
It was Sven Goran Ericksson who gave Bridge his international start and his most productive years were between 2002- 2004. Most of these were in friendlies but there were quite a few consequential appearances. He played two matches in the 2002 World Cup finals, four in the 2004 European Cup qualifiers, and another two in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers. However, he was not used for the 2004 Euro and the 2006 World Cup finals.
Under Steve McLaren’s disastrous tenure Bridge saw just two appearance in the 2008 Euro qualifiers with Ashley Cole having locked the left back position.
With Capello’s arrival, Bridge seems to have again picked up his international profile enough to keep his feet wet. It was the Italian manager that gave him his first start in 11 months against Belarus in the 2010 WC qualifier after Cole picked up his hamstring injury. He was again used in the Andorra shootout and the inconsequential Belarus return match.
He might have been the mistake free insurance that Capello was looking for in the absence of Cole. A good foot soldier who would stick to his defensive duties and eschew the spectacular.