Surely your country is more important than personal pride? Not according to Wayne Bridge. Many people were expecting Bridge to keep his head down and be professional – no dignity would have been lost in doing so.
He has however, done the unthinkable and turned his back on England, despite probably being first choice for the spot considering Ashley Cole’s lengthy lay-off. All the noises coming out of Manchester City in recent weeks were that Bridge’s England status would be unaffected by the recent happenings off the pitch. Roberto Mancini even backed Bridge in a press conference to come out fighting for his country. The time has surely come now for Fabio Capello to analyse his unused options, as he does have left-back talent at his disposal.
Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines have both been impressing for their respective clubs this season and are surely both chomping at the bit to impress for country as well. With Everton surging up the table in recent weeks, Baines has been fundamental with five assists and a goal this season, meaning there is no doubting his attacking intentions are intact. Warnock has also presented creditable form – although missing parts of the season due to a shin injury – the player has helped his Aston Villa side accumulate seven clean sheets. He is not as attack minded as Baines, often having to compensate by the lack of help the counter-attacking style creates, with Ashley Young often striding forward leaving Warnock to cover on his own. So the more defence minded option is Warnock but both players have shown they attain the capabilities to effectively cover the left-back spot if they are called upon by Capello.
The pair of Baines and Warnock are natural full-backs both possessing a ‘sweet’ left-foot, and it is this that may be the difference between them and the other possible contenders. James Milner for instance is one of the bookies favourites to start in the role ahead of England’s game with Egypt. The attacking inclined winger is right footed and his preference to cut inside may see England lack natural width. He is also not a natural defender and his use in the full-back position is mainly in emergencies or if England are searching for a goal, with Milner acting as an extra attacking option rather than a defensive full-back. If Capello opts for Steven Gerrard or Gareth Barry on the left hand side of his midfield then Baines or Warnock are essential to spreading the play. Gerrard and Barry will always hold their born and bred central mentalities and so they will rely on a left-back to provide width and overlaps. If Capello opts for wingers Ashley Young or Milner on the left wing it may make sense to play Warnock in behind to provide familiarity and an air of cohesion on the flank.
However, only one thing is for certain at this moment in time and that is that Bridge will not be slotting in at left-back come June. And, although Capello will understand his decision, the Italian must now choose a rightful understudy to step up to the World Cup stage.