03 March 2010

Water Under the Bridge

By Bourbon

The English media with frenzy of a school of sharks around a bleeding killer whale have fully enjoyed the saga involving former English Captain John Terry, his former teammate and best friend Wayne Bridge, and his former fiancée Vanessa Perroncel. The salacious story has been beaten from pillar to post, provoking opinions that ranging from why personal lives should be subject to such scrutiny, to the established rules of manhood as it relates to past relationships. Things actually had some football significance last weekend when Chelsea and Manchester City clashed in the league and Wayne Bridge bypassed Terry in the customary handshake. Ok great. My intention here is not to decry the breach in the man code, to heap scorn on the (in some eyes: classless?) behaviour by some fans wearing “Terry always scores at the Bridge” or booing Bridge’s touches. My intention is to focus on the (few?)Football aspects that are there.

One aspect is Wayne’s stance to not make himself available for national duty for the World Cup. The World Cup, often the pinnacle of a footballer’s aspirations and dreams. The chance of battling it out for a chance at the end to clasp that coveted 24 pound solid gold trophy signifying your part as the team that earned dominion over the world. The focus of millions upon billions of persons every quadrennial cycle. The World Cup.

Wayne Bridge, already the butt of jokes such as “Wayne Bridge isn’t even first choice in his own house” made a decision based on his feelings. And his feelings were “I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks .It has always been an honor 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."
In the eyes of most men, his stock plummeted further. “Terry already screwed his girl, now he’s letting him screw him out of a world cup place?” “What a pussy!” “Golden Opportunity wasted, what are the odds that Cole mightn’t be fit for the world cup?” However, all things considered, my esteem of him has increased.

Well, the compromise of team spirit. Team spirit isn’t something that you can train, you can foster it, but, a neutral team atmosphere is better than a negative team atmosphere. Capello, as any coach worth his salt would have been observing events as they unfolded, wondering if this bombshell revelation would destabilize his dressing room. Especially in a condensed competition as the world cup, where mistakes can be crucial, anything that can compromise that team spirit would be of concern.

Bridge knows, if a choice between him and Terry (touted as one the best CB in the world by the English media hype machine) needs to be made, he’d more likely than not be placed on the short end of the stick. Most persons aren’t even satisfied that this whole saga is worth relieving Terry of the captain’s armband, much less removing him from a world cup spot for someone who’s status as second choice left back for England is debatable. If Bridge isn’t picked, the question isn’t going to be on his ability, but on something that he had nothing to do with. If he is picked, who knows how the feeling would affect the defense, an aspect of Capello’s system that is crucial. Off the field, the team camaraderie would be shaky. Players know that inadvertently, they would be seen as partial to one if interfacing with one more than the other, which is inevitable. Team spirit again compromised, the team spirit that catalyses the unction to get tough when the going demands it. With Terry almost certain starter, who really needs to be in the best frame of mind? If Cole makes a return, who knows if Bridge would even see a minute of action? On the plus side, Terry already has shown experience in taking up the slack when Bridge ends up out of position, and has shown that he can score when given the chance. (Sorry, it was too tempting to pass up.)

It’s also important to consider the fact that, the general English perspective is that this (as with any other World Cup) is theirs to win. So Bridge is also throwing away in most persons’ mind a chance to do something all players aspire to: winning a world cup. In Bridge’s mind, even if selected, he knows it is hardly likely to be a World Cup where he would be in the best frame of mind to focus on the job at hand. Who knows how he’d perform? He could play rubbish and be blamed. He could try to play well, and it would go unnoticed unless he performs spectacularly. Who knows? In the six weeks buildup to the World Cup he might hit Terry a hard tackle in a scrimmage and putting him out of action. He might be tempted to stab him during team dinner. Who knows what consequences could occur if they in close proximity. Maybe that’s thinking a bit too much, but, again, who knows? Especially from Bridge’s perspective. Why take the chance?

It’s easy to say “get over it.” For his sake he should, the only concern should be when. Less than 6 months after an affair like that is being optimistic, especially one publicized to such an extent. Especially one where the transgressor was playing the roles of “best friend”, “supportive teammate” and “goodly neighbor” who was trying to help them reconcile. Especially where the circumstances were of such where after who knows how many sexual trysts there was an abortion. Who knows what could happen. Bridge as it is simply is taking the role that would minimize any further embarrassment that he could experience. Notice though…Terry seems to have experienced a drop in form since the story broke. Who knows how else this story may develop.

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