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Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Soccer: Bridge quits England team in wake of Terry saga


ROB HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LONDON Wayne Bridge is refusing to play for England in the wake of teammate John Terry's alleged affair with his former partner, saying Thursday that his presence on the World Cup squad could be "divisive."

Coach Fabio Capello expected Bridge to play for England after stripping Terry of the captaincy when details of his affair with Vanessa Perroncel were published. The announcement by Bridge creates problems with team selection and harmony three months before South Africa.

"It has always been an honor to play for England," Bridge said in a statement released by his lawyers. "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 Tuesday of the need to restore unity in the locker room.

However, Bridge is apparently unable to forge a professional relationship with Terry. The rift could be on display Saturday if the pair don't shake hands in the pre-match formalities at Stamford Bridge when Manchester City plays Chelsea, the club that Bridge left last year.

Terry's presence could also cause friction with England teammates aware that his alleged affair with the mother of Bridge's child forced his one-time friend to miss the World Cup.

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."

England's soccer association has supported Capello to ensure the fallout from the Terry-Bridge saga doesn't affect the squad at the World Cup.

"If you want to have great team spirit then you need someone who can manage that and we have the world's best in Fabio dealing with these difficult decisions," FA chief executive Ian Watmore told Talk Sport radio. "Fabio has to judge what's best for team spirit. We won't win in South Africa if we don't have that. But we should have confidence that we will have it."

An immediate issue for Capello is filling the left back slot for Wednesday's friendly against Egypt, with first-choice Cole recovering from a broken ankle and uncertain whether he will be fit for England's World Cup opener against the United States on June 12.

"It leaves Capello with no tried and tested left backs, and that causes a slight problem," said former England defender Danny Mills, who played at the 2002 World Cup. "Ashley Cole, if all being well and his recovery time is as quick as we think it might be, might make it back for the end of the season.

"But it won't take an awful lot of that to be delayed slightly and for him to miss out too, so that makes this friendly and the next few England games very, very important."

Capello will use Wednesday's match to audition others in the position with the likeliest candidates being Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock.

Baines is yet to appear for the England senior side but has impressed for Everton this season, while Warnock's only international experience amounts to six minutes as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008.