Michael Bridges has been opening up about the horrific injury that he suffered for Leeds United in 2000 and the ramifications it had on the rest of his career.
Speaking in the latest issue of FFT, Bridges talked about the defining game against Besiktas in the Champions League in which he dislocated his ankle. The striker was just 22 at the time and after setbacks, more injuries and knee trouble, later on, he was released by Leeds in 2004. Unbeknownst to Bridges when he first got injured, he'd score his last goal for the Whites.
"When I snapped my leg out in Turkey, I was told I’d never play again. So, in one sense, everything that came afterwards was a bonus," Bridges told FFT. "I spent another 15 years in the game – OK, it wasn’t at the highest level, but there’s no bitterness in me.
"I’ve lost count of the number of times people have come up to me and said I lost a wonderful opportunity to become an England international, but I’m a believer in fate. I wouldn’t have met my wife and I wouldn’t have my beautiful twins, because when I was injured I went back to Whitley Bay to live with my parents and that’s when I met Kate, who was on dance leave from Las Vegas. I try to put a positive spin on things – the way I look at it, I wouldn’t be leading the happy life I am now if I hadn’t been injured."
Bridges did, however, admit that it was difficult to watch the 2002 World Cup, knowing that he was England - especially as he had a good relationship with one of England's stars.
"A couple of years earlier, I’d read an article in the Sunday Times predicting what England’s starting line-up would be in that tournament, and I was in it," he said. "I’d played with Emile Heskey at virtually every level and we became good mates. In our teens, we just assumed we’d graduate all the way to the senior side."
"Then this kid called Michael Owen exploded on the scene, and it quickly became obvious he was a bit special. I remember telling Emile, 'Well, one of us won’t play now – this lad’s a flying machine. He said, 'It’ll be you, then. England always need a big man.' He was right!"
Despite the positive spin that Bridges has over his horrendous injury in 2000 though, he still had dark days, telling FFT that he didn't just "take it on the chin". The striker only played 10 more games for Leeds before leaving, before becoming a journeyman around the Football League.
"There were bouts of depression, and times when I was drinking far too much," Bridges recalls. "I was in a bad place."
"There was a two-week period when I was on crutches and went out in Leeds every night with a mate. The club’s physio eventually gave me a reality check and said that if I didn’t sort myself out, it wouldn’t only be my leg in bits."
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