Home and Away: Wayne Bridge
feature Fri 27 Oct 2017
Continuing our series of interviews with former players and with Chelsea playing away this weekend, we talked to Wayne Bridge about his memories of games on the road for the Blues…
Think of Wayne Bridge and Chelsea away games and it is pretty certain one above all others comes to mind first.
Bridge, who played as a left-back for the Blues between 2003 and 2008, can understand that too, even though it is a goal he scored rather than his defending that makes the particular game in question such a cherished memory.
However as well as that famous Champions League night at Highbury, there were plenty of other momentous matches away from Stamford Bridge in which he was involved and he discusses a selection with the official Chelsea website here. The story begins at the start of Roman Abramovich’s game-changing ownership of Chelsea as Bridge was signed on the same day as Damien Duff in that first summer, one of many big names who joined in a major recruitment drive…
The first Premier League game of your first season at Chelsea was a big one, away at Liverpool…
I remember Veron scoring and I remember we got a winner late on [Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored]. I also remember afterwards buzzing because there was a lot of pressure on you when you first arrived at Chelsea, as we had all been put together and with the money that had been spent. But I always thought the quality was there to go to Anfield and win the game so I was absolutely buzzing to get the win there. Everyone was. It was an exciting time to be part of Chelsea.
Your first Chelsea goal came in December that season, in a win away to Besiktas although the game had been moved to Germany. There was still a big home support though…
You could tell I didn’t score too many goals because my celebration was shocking! I remember Jimmy teeing it up for me and I stroked it into the bottom corner and I just jumped up and down on the spot in the end. But again I was absolutely buzzing.
The Turkish fans are always loud. I remember one England game in Turkey and I could not hear anyone speak on the pitch because their fans are really passionate and loud, they do create a good atmosphere and are right up for the game, and that Chelsea win against Besiktas is one at the top of my list of favourites.
Onto your most famous Chelsea goal, and that night at Arsenal in April 2004 when we knocked them out in the Champions League quarter-final…
It is the away game that stands out for me because I scored a goal and people talk about Chelsea against Arsenal and it was kind of a turning point, it was when Chelsea began to dominate against them. Lamps had scored to bring us back into the game and to be honest when I did score late on, I was celebrating but I did not realise Arsenal now had to score two goals!
I remember the ball coming to me and I just smashed it up the pitch. Lamps came over to me and said to calm down, I said ‘What?’ and he said ‘They have got to score two goals’ and I replied ‘Oh yeah!’.
That was an unbelievable feeling but it was pure disappointment after that really because we threw the semi-final against Monaco away. We did not get a great result over there but to start the home game so well and then throw it away was disappointing, and we had let ourselves down in first game so it killed us a little bit for the second leg.
One of the stand-out away games from your second season was when we went to Blackburn as league leaders for a tough evening match…
I remember getting kicked all over the place but as a team, Chelsea had it in them to fight, everyone was just fighting for each other to be honest. It was probably the only team that I have played in where you go out and you think I am not going to lose no matter what. We were always so positive about getting the result. I never went out on the pitch ever thinking we were going to lose a game to be honest.
Unfortunately you missed our run-in to the league title as three games later your season was finished by a challenge from Alan Shearer at St James’ Park in the FA Cup fifth round…
I was devastated. I was going through a bit of a difficult time playing-wise, I was not Jose Mourinho’s no.1 choice really but then I started playing and I was playing really well. He even spoke to me a couple of days before the game to say that I had been doing really well. The Barcelona games were coming up and I was looking to feature in them but then I got the nasty injury which was scary as well, because you don’t know if you are going to make it back to be honest.
I broke and dislocated my ankle and broke my leg, so it was a nasty injury and all credit to the medical staff. And the team. When they won the League Cup I remember them all phoning me after the game and they were great. The manager came and saw me, Roman Abramovich came round my house.
It took a lot away from me but I managed to get back. I just remember it so much. I remember my leg snapping and I took an extra step. There was nothing bad in the challenge, I ended up going off the pitch but I don’t think he meant it or anything like that. It was the first time I ever wore blades as well but it was not because of that. It was just a freak accident. So I have some good away game memories but obviously some bad ones as well!
You went away to Fulham on loan for the second half of the next season…
I came back from the injury but I still didn’t feel right. My ankle doesn’t feel right to this day to be honest, it gets stiff and I have to do a lot of mobility work, and being at a club as big as Chelsea it was hard for me to get games with the quality they had. To go out to Fulham and get games and go to a World Cup was good for me. The manager supported it and I managed to come back which was the most important thing.
Do you remember playing in the front three and scoring in a League Cup semi away at Wycombe?
I do and I remember Sala [Salomon Kalou] slipping me through and I made a nice little run and dinked it over the keeper’s head. I didn’t know where it had gone as I hit the deck. I always liked playing that position. I did once for England with Ash playing behind me and I enjoyed that game.
Were there any away grounds you particularly liked or disliked playing at?
There were none I really dreaded. It was mainly depending on what the pitch was like. If anywhere was a nice pitch I was happy to play there. I remember playing at Wigan a couple of times and the pitch was not great and I probably had more abuse at Tottenham, but that did not really bother me, it goes in one ear and out the other. Stoke was never a nice place to go because of the way they played, they were always quite big and strong and it was never easy there. Man United, I loved to play there, a massive stadium.
You probably do need quite a thick skin to play in your position so near the crowd…
You get used to it after your first season and if you don’t you are going to struggle through the rest of your career. I think most players are pretty thick-skinned.
How was the Chelsea away support?
They were always amazing, and I had a good reception when I came back. They have always been good to me the fans and the away fans were definitely amazing. If you were at a game you could always hear the Chelsea away fans. I know a lot of Chelsea fans and they are passionate and they are loud as well.
Do you still keep an eye on Chelsea games?
‘I do. It is difficult at the moment with the way Man City are playing because they are absolutely flying, but I have always had Chelsea down to come good. They have a few injuries at the moment and as long as they get through this period and stay close, there is always a chance. They have come from behind before but it is down to whether City can carry on as they are.
It is Chelsea playing away at Bournemouth this weekend. Growing up as a south coast boy, did you envisage the day when the Cherries would be established in the Premier League?
No to be honest. I have had a lot of stick at their stadium actually, when I was playing for Brighton. I thought they had made a few good signings but Bournemouth have not started off too well this season, but it won’t be an easy game. No game is going to be easy down there because they do have some good players.
Plenty of Chelsea fans enjoyed watching you in the jungle when you were on I’m a Celebrity…
I got talked into that to be honest. I wasn’t even going to go to the meeting. I ended up going but I did not think they would want me to go in there but they did. I decided it was something I would like to do to test myself. It took me a while to get used to the cameras and being away from the family but I really enjoyed it, and thanks to anyone who voted for me, I did not think I would last that long. When I look back it was a great experience.
What are you up to at the moment?
I am doing a bit with Soccer AM at the moment because I went on the show and they asked me if I would do more. I am doing a bit of Premier League TV and I am thinking about doing my coaching badges. That is something I am not sure I am going to enjoy or will be for me but I have to give it a go as I do miss being around a football club.