Brian Viner: Bridge must put out flames of fury before he's consumed

The Last Word
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The Independent Online

In the United States, where they are curiously fond of naming river crossings after local dignitaries, the Terry Perroncel Bridge affair would mean something quite different; a controversy in a remote county of North Dakota, perhaps, concerning advanced metal fatigue.

Here, advanced news fatigue is setting in. John Terry, we all seem pretty much agreed, is a toerag. Vanessa Perroncel likewise. Wayne Bridge we're not sure about. For some, he personifies the dignity of the wronged man, for others he's a histrionic crybaby. My colleague Sam Wallace, armed with the inside knowledge of the well-informed football correspondent, yesterday fired some convincing shots in support of the former thesis. Others have persuasively argued the latter. Either way, the debate now needs to move back to footballing matters. After all, we had quite enough clandestine shagging when "Anyone for Svennis?" Eriksson was England manager. It would be regrettably ironic if the tenure of the fiercely moralistic Fabio Capello is undermined, as Eriksson's was, by the male libido. And there's a lesson from history. If Capello's English was up to it, he might point out that in 1966, World Cup Willie was a mascot, not a condition.

As for Bridge's determination to remain unavailable for England while Terry is involved, the Manchester City left-back should take a look at a new series of School of Hard Knocks, in which Will Greenwood and Scott Quinnell corral 20 East End youngsters, in varying states of delinquency and half of them with prison records, and attempt over eight weeks to turn them into a powerful, well-drilled rugby team.

Next week's opening programme offers plenty of predictable reality-show fare, but there is a startlingly poignant scene in which the lads are taken to the famous Repton Boys Boxing Club in Bethnal Green, to be put through their paces by former light-heavyweight Mark Prince.

After the obligatory sit-ups and heavy-bag work, Prince tells them about the day in 2006 at a north London school when his 15-year-old son Kiyan, trying to prevent one of his fellow pupils from bullying another, was stabbed. He talks about hugging the surgeon who opened up Kiyan's chest and squeezed the boy's heart in a forlorn attempt to get it pumping again. And he talks about his murderous rage following Kiyan's death, so intense that he went round punching walls harder than he punched any of the 15 men he knocked out in the ring, planning what he was going to do to his son's murderer, or whatever member of the murderer's family happened to open the front door.

Instead, he tells his captivated audience, he learnt to subdue his anger, and redirected his passion towards his own career and the well-being of his remaining children. All of which can perhaps only fancifully be compared with Wayne Bridge's comparatively trivial predicament, but there is a football connection, in that young Kiyan was a promising youth player with Queen's Park Rangers at the time of his death. More significantly, there is a human connection. Bridge is doing what Prince stopped short of doing, sacrificing his own best interests in the flames of his own fury and indignation. By reconsidering, and reaching some accommodation with the wretched Terry, he'd be doing himself, and Capello, and for that matter Terry, a huge favour. And us too, of course, because we could then move downriver, as they might say in North Dakota, from Terry Perroncel Bridge.

'School of Hard Knocks' starts on Sky Sports on Tuesday.

Tendulkar exudes class on and off the pitch

Sachin Tendulkar's remarkable one-day double century against South Africa this week reminded me of my encounter with him last June, when I got to interview the "Little Master" following a photo shoot in a shop in Covent Garden, incongruously enough.

As I wrote at the time, peering through the shop window was an ever-burgeoning group of Indians, astounded to learn that their country's supreme sporting megastar was inside. And when the photo shoot was over, Tendulkar politely apologised for keeping me waiting a few moments longer, then stepped outside to converse with people who would gladly lie in the middle of a motorway for him, illuminating not so much their day as their lives. It is truly rare for a performer as classy as he is in the sporting arena to exude just as much class away from it. But to return to his batting, he told me that day that his boyhood heroes were Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar. "I always wanted to be a mixture of both of those guys," he said. I think we can safely say that he has achieved his wish, with a dollop of Don Bradman thrown in.

Pompey fans deserve pity

The roller-coaster ride has always seemed to me an inappropriate metaphor for life as a football fan, the ups being the boring, mechanical bits, and the downs providing the exhilarating thrills. But in the absence of anything better – and writing as a man whose team has beaten Manchester United and Chelsea in recent weeks, before losing so feebly to Sporting Lisbon that their goalkeeper hardly had a save to make – my heart goes out to the Pompey fans, who in recent seasons have experienced a more vertiginous ride than the rest of us put together.

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