Wayne too quick to burn England Bridge

Mark Heath’s weekly sports column looks at the Wayne Bridge fiasco - should he have quit England?

“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.”

Wayne Bridge, Thursday, February 25, 2010.

POOR old Wayne Bridge. A few weeks ago he was probably looking forward to flying to South Africa for World Cup 2010 as a low profile member of a deep and talented England squad.

But then JT did the dirty (allegedly) with the mother of his child, Max Clifford got involved, Ashley Cole got injured and suddenly Wayne was at the centre of media storm.

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Obviously, it’s all been a bit much. Just when it seemed likely that Bridge would play a larger role than imagined in our brave boys’ World Cup assault, he’s gone and quit international football amid a volley of long words and heroic self-sacrifice.

Aside from being deeply dubious that Wayne has ever used or written the terms ‘untenable’ or ‘divisive’ before, I find the whole situation a little pathetic.

On a personal level, I do feel sympathy for Bridge. On every other level I find myself wanting to reach into my TV screen, shake him firmly and tell him in no uncertain terms to man up and grow a pair, as the Americans would say.

These are stupidly well-paid professional athletes, afforded chances that most sports fans in the free world would happily fight an irate bear to enjoy, no matter how fleetingly.

Bridge has the chance to represent his country on the biggest stage in sport, as part of a team that has a realistic chance of winning the World Cup.

Considering that he’s not actually that good of a player in the grand scheme of things and has no form to speak of, that’s a pretty good deal.

Yes, he would have to play alongside a man that he clearly dislikes and probably has no respect for. That shouldn’t matter – we all have to do that every day of our working lives. It’s called being professional.

I understand he must feel very strongly about the situation and recognise that I have no idea what he is going through.

But this is a decision made far too quickly and borne of raw emotion rather than logical thought. He must be given the time, space and opportunity to reconsider.

If not, he will regret it with every part of his being - and the story will, lamentably, continue to grow.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the perilous financial state of football.

It has since occurred to me, with the benefit of a conversation with my esteemed sporting editor, that there is another part of the story which merits discussion.

With cash tight and the pressure to make prudent purchases at an all-time high, many struggling clubs – by which I mean pretty much all of the teams in the league – are plumping for loan signings rather than risky transfers.

This is yet more terrible news for the game. Our teams are becoming filled with transient talent, with starting XI’s varying wildly from one week to the next. There is no consistency for fans to feel comfortable with.

One also has to question the commitment of loan players to their temporary teams. Often on secondment from ‘bigger clubs’, it’s rare that they either make the impact or exhibit the passion that fans desire.

Which, to be fair, makes sense. If you moved from a flashy large house to a smaller one for set period of a month or six, it’s unlikely you’d go to the trouble of redecorating or otherwise injecting much love into your short-term dwelling.

Why then, would loan players play their socks off for a club they have no real connection to?

Indeed, a brief brainstorming session yielded only two loan players in recent memory – Gio Dos Santos at Ipswich and Kieran Richardson at West Brom – to have really made a splash.

The loan system, like much of modern football needs a serious rethink. As usual it is us, the fans, who are being short-changed.

- Let me know what you think by e-mailing me at mark.heath@archant.co.uk. You can also follow me on Twitter at mark__heath and read my blog, Playing the Links, at www.greenun24.co.uk.