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Thursday, 02 April 2009

Whatever Happened To?- Michael Bridges

In the 1999-2000 season Michael Bridges banged in 19 Premiership goals for a Leeds United side on the way to the Champions League. England caps would surely follow for a  22 year old getting better all the time.

The player had moved to Leeds- then a growing Premiership force- for £5 million from Sunderland and justified that fee immediately. Amazingly he would go nearly five years before his next senior goal.

The striker's career would parallel the fall of his club. For Michael Bridges the dreams of England caps and trophies ended in a game with Besiktas in October 2000 when, as he put it himself- 'body went one way, leg went the other'.

Such was the damage to his shattered ankle, the initial prognosis was that the ex-Wearside man wouldn't play professionally again. He ignored this advice and battled back to fitness in a year only to snap the achilles in the other leg just two games into his comeback.

More rehab followed and by the time the player was deemed fit again, Leeds had become a very different club. The high earners were being moved out of Elland Road and after a short loan with Newcastle in 2004, Bridges moved to Bolton.

However, he never played a Premiership game under Sam Allardyce and another move followed to Sunderland. Mick McCarthy also seemed reluctant to use him and with just a handful of games on Wearside, Bridges moved to Bristol City.

Like many players back from serious injury, minor problems kept hampering his progress and the player himself thinks this encouraged managers to be wary of relying on him.

He was unlucky that Gary Johnson left Bristol soon after signing him. His situation looked bleak until Paul Simpson took him on loan to Carlisle United. At the time Brunton Park was an exciting place to be as the Cumbrians were fighting back from relegation to the Conference and the effects of massive flooding.

For the first time in five years the striker got back in the groove and scored goals. His quality shone through and he made a massive contribution to their League Two title campaign in 2005/06.

Carlisle fans wanted him to stay but in summer 2006 Bridges made another attempt to move back to higher levels by joining Hull City. Again he couldn't get a regular place and by October 2007 the player had joined Sydney FC in the A-League on loan.

Injury hampered him in Australia too and eventually he returned to Brunton Park at the start of this campaign.The bulk of his appearances this season have been from the bench and his loan from Hull ends in the summer.

The second spell in Cumbria hasn't gone as well as the first, so Michael Bridges' future is uncertain once again. His career is a reminder of how brutal football can be - especially for a striker- once the suspicion takes root that the electric sharpness has been blunted.

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