A Bridge too wide
Wayne Bridge is refusing to play for England in the wake of teammate John Terry's alleged affair with his former partner, saying yesterday that his presence in the World Cup squad could be "divisive".
Coach Fabio Capello expected Bridge to continue playing for England after stripping Terry of the captaincy when details of the Chelsea defender's affair with Vanessa Perroncel were published.
But Bridge's announcement - two days after Capello suggested the two could play together - leaves the Italian with problems over selection and team harmony three months before they travel to South Africa.
"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," Bridge said in a statement released by his lawyers. "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."
After weeks of lurid headlines about his players - including first-choice left back Ashley Cole - Capello spoke on Tuesday of the need to restore unity in the dressing room.
But Bridge is apparently unable to forge a professional relationship with Terry. The rift could be on display Saturday when the pair come face to face during the pre-match formalities at Stamford Bridge when Manchester City play Chelsea, the club Bridge left in 2009.
Terry's continuing presence in the England set-up could also cause friction, with fellow squad members aware that the defender's alleged affair with the mother of Bridge's child forced his one-time friend to miss out on a major tournament.
Expressing sadness at his decision, Bridge's statement continued: "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."
The Professional Footballers' Association tried to heal the rift between the former Chelsea and England teammates.
"The PFA offered to help and contacted both parties with a view to acting as mediators, but neither came back to us," PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said. "I am surprised and saddened that this matter could not be resolved.
"I would have hoped that things could have been patched up for the sake of the professional careers of both Wayne and John Terry, as well as the England team."