Bridge determined to use Fulham route to World Cup

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The Independent Football

The Fulham manager Chris Coleman believes that Wayne Bridge will make his way back into the England World Cup squad, but for now the left-back is taking things one match at a time.

The 25-year-old made his debut for the Cottagers in Monday's 2-1 defeat at West Ham United following his loan move from Chelsea. Although his new side lost after spectacular first-half strikes from Anton Ferdinand and Yossi Benayoun, it was a composed performance from Bridge, who had played just twice for the Blues, in the cup competitions, this season.

The defender was out for eight months with a broken ankle last year, and had not forced his way back into the Chelsea team. Bridge felt that his World Cup chances were slipping away.

"Hopefully I can get better and better," he said. "Every Premiership game is a high standard and I hadn't played one for a long time so it was a good test for me and my ankle. I want to play as many games as possible and hopefully if I can stay fit then I can do well. I want to try and get into that World Cup squad.

"It was good to be back, but it is also disappointing with the result. I am, though, pleased to get 90 minutes under my belt and hopefully I can start feeling stronger. My fitness felt all right, but my ankle felt a bit tender and started aching towards the end of the game, but that is to be expected as it is the first 90 minutes I have played in the Premiership for a long time."

As for his future with Chelsea, Bridge hopes that he is still part of their plans. "I would like to think [the Chelsea manager] Jose [Mourinho] will monitor my progress," he said. "He said it is good to stay close by because they can keep a close eye on me. If I went somewhere else outside London it would be harder.

"Jose said I am still part of the team and he understands that I want to play games so they have agreed to let me go until the end of the season. I will take it from there and see what happens after that. Chelsea have said they will not let me go at this time, so we will just have to review it. But they want me to go back at the end of this loan spell and go and fight for my place."

Coleman, meanwhile, is in no doubt of Bridge's qualities. "He needs another two or three games before he is going to be really firing on all cylinders, but I was pleased with his performance," the Fulham manager said. "It is hard for him, coming from up the road at Chelsea, and of course there is going to be pressure on him. But I thought he did well... He showed he has touches of class and made the right decision when he had to, another two or three games and I am sure we will see the best of Wayne."

Coleman - who was critical of some of his players for their lack of fight shown in the first half at Upton Park - firmly believes that Bridge can force his way back into the England set-up. "Ashley Cole and Wayne, they are the two best left-backs in the Premiership, and when Wayne is fit, he can push Ashley Cole. Wayne's long-term objective is getting games under his belt and getting back in the [England] squad, and then obviously worry about getting into the team."

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