By Nick Harris
25 February 2010
One of Britain’s leading psychologists has told sportingintelligence that Wayne Bridge’s decision to quit England and rule himself out of World Cup contention was “presumably made for the good of the team” and as such it is a “laudable” course of action.
Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the Lancaster University Management School, says that Bridge’s action now eliminates the chance of disharmony between himself and John Terry – who allegedly had an affair with Bridge’s former girlfriend, Vanessa Perroncel – at the World Cup in South Africa.
“When you think about it purely in psychological terms, it’s an understandable thing for Bridge to do,” Cooper says. “You’re in a workplace where there are problems between co-workers. Does that affect performance, or have the ability to do so? Of course it does. And in a sports team environment, where players are more closely knit than most places, it does even more so.
“I’d interpret Bridge’s decision to be for the good of the team; that’s the judgement he’s made. And as such it’s laudable for the effect it could have.
“You’ll get people saying ‘but the professional thing to do is carry on’. But that’s not necessarily true if you accept that performances might be affected.”
Bridge’s shock announcement came today when he released a statement via his lawyers. Rumours have been rife that he and Terry – formerly close friends when Chelsea team-mates – have fallen out irreconcilably because of Terry’s alleged affair with Perroncel, the mother of Bridge’s son, Jaydon.
There was speculation Bridge was considering stepping down, but when Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the England captaincy, it was widely perceived some of the heat had been removed from the situation, and that with Terry effectively penalised, Bridge would want to carry on playing for England. Not so.
“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, Manchester City’s 29-year-old left-back said in his statement.
“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.
“Sadly therefore 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.”
Professor Cooper was most recently in the headlines earlier this week when he resigned his role as patron of the National Bullying Helpline on a point of principle because the organisation had disclosed it had received complaints of bullying from Downing Street. Prof Cooper said this broke the confidentiality of those involved.
On the Bridge and Terry situation, he rejected any notion that Bridge is the “loser” and Terry the “winner” within the England set-up now. “That doesn’t even come into it for me,” he said. “The issue right now isn’t about right and wrong, it’s about the decision that works for Wayne Bridge. Who knows, one day the pair of them might find a way to be friends again.”
Prof Cooper also rejected any notion that Bridge has “let down” England. “Put yourself in his situation. He can see how performance could be affected. Talking about Capello’s left-back options is not looking at things from the psychological viewpoint of a young man who is effectively sacrificing his own chance of going to the World Cup for the good of the team.”
Prof Cooper, incidentally, is a Manchester City season ticket holder, and sportingintelligence asked him whether he was concerned about his team’s collective mental state, what with Emmanuel Adebayor’s proximity to the murders of Togo colleagues at the African Nations Cup, Carlos Tevez’s ongoing worries about the premature birth of his new child, and Bridge’s upsets. “Don’t go there,” he said, with a trace of mirth. “We’ll be fine.”
Elsewhere, Bridge received further support from a former fellow England full-back, George Cohen, who won the World Cup in 1966. Speaking at a Football Roadshow event organised by England’s sponsors, Nationwide Building Society, Cohen said: “I find it rather sad that Wayne feels he can’t share a dressing room with some of the other players and in particular John Terry but at least he’s come out early and said so.
“He obviously he doesn’t want to be with John at all and you can’t put blame on that. He’s done the right thing by saying ‘I simply can’t compete on a football pitch with John Terry’.
“He probably doesn’t want to play knowing that there are some people that might support John in the team because you know the dressing room would be split and that’s divisive.
“But I have to say he’ll be missing out on something fantastic. Winning the World Cup has stayed with me for 44 years and it really is a special achievement.”