Wayne Bridge has kept his silence through varying degrees of humiliation at Manchester City but the time came this week when he felt he finally had to speak out, if only to defend himself as a professional footballer.
To say he has been frozen out by Roberto Mancini would be an understatement. It has not been cold for him at City, it has been glacial. He spends most of his time training "with the kids", as he explains it, occasionally being pulled in with the first team to make up the numbers. The one-year anniversary of his last Premier League outing for City is on Wednesday. He has played once this season, in the Carling Cup against Birmingham City in September.
The final straw, however, was when Mancini announced this week that he did not know what Bridge did on a Saturday. "Play golf?" the City manager suggested. For the record, Bridge does not own a set of clubs, much less have a membership of a Cheshire golf club, and on his days off he trains hard in expectation of hitting the ground running with a new club next month. He has kept in shape: his body fat measurement is one of the lowest in the City squad.
Naturally shy of the press, he has not spoken since the media firestorm involving John Terry and his alleged affair with Bridge's ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel which led to Bridge's early retirement from international football. Even before then he was not exactly an enthusiastic interviewee. When we met yesterday at his home it was with a heavy heart that Bridge, 31, broke his silence. He felt he had no other option.
"The remark by Mancini about golf was a dig," he says. "He doesn't know me that well because I don't play golf. On my days off I go for a run, I train harder than he is making out. I do a bit extra, I go into the gym before training. I do yoga. It hurts because I live for football. I've been a professional since I was 17.
"Every now and then they call me over to train with the first team. Ade [Emmanuel Adebayor], Bellers [Craig Bellamy], Nedum [Onuoha], Shay [Given] and me trained with the kids in pre-season. 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.
"I feel like I could do the job. When I was at Chelsea I thought I played well even when Ashley Cole was there. I have not been given the chances [at City]. I'm as good as them [the club's other left-backs Aleksander Kolarov, Gaël Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta]. It is hard. I have got used to dealing with it and I'm waiting for January to come. It is hard to go to training every day. I don't feel part of it.
"I accept that since I went to City I haven't played great. But I haven't had a fair chance. I've had injuries too. Last season I had a fractured toe, then I played when I didn't feel right and got another injury. I don't think I've been given a fair chance. I was at a team where Ashley Cole was the best in the world in that position and still got games, but it won't happen for me 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. David Platt [Mancini's assistant] has spoken to me about options, but that's it really."
There have been enquiries for Bridge. He played for West Ham United on loan in the second half of last season but when it came to making the deal permanent, it could not be done. The issue with Bridge is his wages – he has 18 months left on £90,000 a week – and while City have subsidised the likes of Adebayor on loan at Spurs – or done a deal on Bellamy's contract – they have not always been prepared to do the same with Bridge.
As for the prospective move to Celtic in the summer mentioned by Mancini (below), it was a deal that suited City but not Bridge which is why he rejected it. Yet similar deals with other clubs have been rejected by City. Bridge believes he is entitled to the money in the contract agreed with City when he joined from Chelsea for £12m in January 2009 but, as he says himself, he would "rather play three games a week than none".
"I've never caused trouble, I'm not that kind of character. There will be days when I'm frustrated – not depressed – but down. Training helps take my mind off the fact I don't play. When I was at West Ham they [City] weren't keen on having me back, but they left it until the last minute in the summer. I don't like confrontation to be honest. It takes a while for me to lose it to be honest, but when I do...
"Other players are totally different to me, they would phone the manager and tell things as they are, there and then. I just get on with things and hope they resolve themselves. Even when I'm playing I like to get on with my own life. If I kicked up a fuss I might have got out easier.
"The money thing hurts me because people think I'm just sat there picking it up. I come from a working-class background. I work hard. The club have made it difficult for me to leave and have not been supportive. There have been times where the passion has gone and I feel like I've fallen out of love with the game because I don't get anything out of it. I don't enjoy it, I miss playing.
"Christian [Lattanzio, one of Mancini's assistants, who also works in the England set-up] can tell when it's not going well, or a couple of lads might notice that I'm not in the gym before training every day. I want to go to a team where I can do well. I don't care where they are, I just want to do well for them."
The relationship with Mancini is non-existent. "He is not one of those managers that will put an arm round a player. He is not one of those who will talk to the players or become friendly. He called me lazy but that is one thing I am not. With injuries, he is always right. He hates injured players. He will be like 'No, they should be out training, it's not as bad'.
"He is doing well, the team is playing great. For me they will win the League. I cannot see anyone else getting near them. The City fans are great and they love him [Mancini]. And as he said in the press this week, I am nowhere to be seen.
"I realise people will say 'Oh, you are getting paid this much'. I think a different manager would treat me in a different way. They wouldn't just push me off with the kids and say 'You're gone'. They didn't deal with it great when they were trying to get me out, so it was frustrating.
"Everyone else treats me the same, the players and coaches. The players are good to me. They see the situation and some of them don't think it's right. Everyone has an opinion. When I am training with the kids I know where I stand. I have to get out of there and I know I am definitely not wanted. Then I train with the first team and I am like 'Why am I here'?"
The Terry episode, which took place almost two years ago, ended in his former friend and Chelsea team-mate being stripped of the England captaincy. Bridge quit international football as a result and, famously, when they encountered one another in the pre-match handshake queue at Stamford Bridge in February 2010, it was Bridge who avoided Terry's hand (below).
That is the only public indication, until now, of his feelings about Terry's alleged affair with Perroncel, the mother of Bridge's son, Jayden. "It has been difficult for me over the last couple of years," Bridge says. "Everything that has happened football-wise... I have not played great and personally stuff that had gone on.
"I don't want to talk too much about it because I don't want to bring up the situation that happened. I never talked about it at the time and what's the point? If I had gone to the World Cup finals [in 2010] it would have been an absolute media frenzy."
He is much happier now and is in a new relationship with Frankie Sandford – part of the girl group The Saturdays – who serves up a mean chocolate cake once the interview is over. Would Bridge tell his side of the Terry story one day? "I probably could do. 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 reckon I could write a good book...
"I feel I am letting my mum and dad down and they basically live for watching me play football. I hate that my parents can't come and watch me, or Frankie, who loves to watch football, and 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. My agent Aaron Lincoln, as well. Everyone has been so supportive and they can all tell when I have been down.
"I had never been in the press before. Then I was and everyone had an opinion about me. It affects your football because everyone knows your personal life and everyone is shouting about it. I can deal with it. Everyone was talking about it and I just didn't want to respond. At the time, Fabio [Capello] did call me and want me to go [to the World Cup] but I just thought it would be a media frenzy."
The winner of two Premier League titles with Chelsea and 36 England caps, Bridge does not want to be remembered as a non-playing footballer. He scored one of the most famous goals in Chelsea's history, the decisive one against Arsenal at Highbury in the 2004 Champions League quarter-final. "It's frustrating, I go through spells where I train hard and keep my head down but there will be a spell where my head goes and I don't train as hard as I should," he says. "Then someone will snap me out of it.
"Sometimes I'm training with the young players for a month at a time. It doesn't matter how well or how hard I train I know I will not be given a chance. It is demoralising. It has gone on for so long I've realised I have no future at the club. I am trying my hardest to stay fit, I haven't played for so long. But I know I have a lot to offer."Reuse content