A question and answer with returning Jets' striker Michael Bridges.
After announcing his retirement in April of this year, former Sunderland and Leeds striker Michael Bridges has been announced as a surprise addition to the Newcastle Jets squad for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season, effective immediately.
Bridges played in the England Under-18-s alongside household names Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Michael Owen. The 33-year old striker then went on to make more than 200 appearances in the Premier League during spells with the Black Cats, Leeds and Newcastle, on loan.
Bridges moved to the Newcastle Jets in 2009 and scored six goals in 15 appearances during his first season in Australia. He became the club's first overseas-born captain at the start of the 2010-11 season, before being hampered by a knee injury.
After announcing his retirement earlier this year Bridges took up a role with the Jets as international football and business development manager, where only eight weeks ago he accepted an invitation to resume training, which markedly reignited his desire to play at top level.
Nationality: English Date of Birth: 05/08/1978 Height: 185cm (6' 1") Weight: 78.99kg (12st 6lbs) Previous Clubs: Newcastle United (loan), Carlisle, Sunderland, Bristol City, MK Dons, Leeds United, Hull City, Bolton Wanderers. Position: Striker
You spent a stint on loan at Sydney FC in 2007, before eventually joining the Jets in 2009, how does Newcastle compare to the big smoke?
Sydney was a great city for the weekends and for young singles and couples, it had a great nightlife, but as a family Newcastle has a great community vibe, and reminds me of where I-m originally from in the UK. Sydney is like London, it-s busy and non-stop but Newcastle is somewhere we felt we could settle for good.
Your mate Harry Kewell has just joined Melbourne Victory, and a number of other ex-Premier League players have also joined the A-League for this season, how do you think that will help the competition?
Harry has returned and so has Franny Jeffers. It-s good, not just good for their Clubs but also for the league, and to have boys like them who are leaving their big dollar contracts in the UK to move to Australia is a huge indication of how far the league has come over the past few years. Having these boys in the A-League also means the league is attracting attention on an international scale now as well which is huge!
You-ve spent quite a bit of time in the A-League now, how would you compare the standard from now to when you were here on loan in 2007?
Definitely improved, just look at the way Brisbane Roar are playing football now to 2007. It-s definitely gone up a notch, and the new FFA Curriculum Framework for coaches and players means that the overall standard of the competition as well as game has developed. Returning players from Europe is another good sign for Australian football, having Harry and Brett Emerton here, as well as getting Franny back into the competition - it-s a sign it-s definitely better quality.
Would you encourage more players from the UK to bring their boots Down Under?
Yes, and I have done. Obviously I spoke with Franny and Harry when they were considering their moves back here, and I did with Robbie Fowler when he made the move too. The more players of their quality that come out here, means that more of the boys playing overseas are keen get back to Australia and settle into the competition. If they-re making big bucks in the Premier League and 25 or 26, maybe not yet, but they will when the timings right. I will be telling as many people as possible, it-s a great lifestyle out here, and the quality of football, and professionalism of the League is good.
Joining another ex-Premier League player in the squad this season, Francis Jeffers, do you boys cop any stick for being Poms?
Yeah, of course we do! The lads just call us pale Pommys, freckles. We just come back with - we-ve got the ashes and they all shut up pretty quickly. It-s great to have Franny back though, one because he-s a great player and two, he-s a great lad off the park as well. It-s always good to have a bit of back up!
Novocastrians like to boast about having some of the best beaches in the world, and we-re heading into summer. Can we expect to see you catching some waves down at the beach?
Not a chance! You-ve got sharks, blue ring octopus, jellyfish and I won-t be going near any of them. And when I saw the great white shark caught off Bar Beach that was the icing on the cake. Plus Pommy-s can-t swim.
Lastly, what can we expect to see from Michael Bridges this season?
I-ve still got the brains for football, so you can expect to see plenty of good passes and combinational play upfront, between me and the other forwards - and obviously a few goals along the way! I still had unfinished business on the park, and I-m looking forward to the challenges ahead this season, and it would be sensational to help the lads to the Grand Final.