Football 3 years ago

Bridge can't grasp Wanderers' sorry season

  • Bridge can't grasp Wanderers' sorry season

Mark Bridge has been around long enough to know how things go at Western Sydney - and he's certain the Wanderers' last A-League campaign was simply an exception to the rule.

As one of only three foundation players still left at the club, Bridge was there in 2013 when coach Tony Popovic's side shocked Australia by lifting the premiers' plate in their inaugural season.

He was with the club the following year when their red-hot form took them all the way to a second consecutive grand final, a 2-1 loss to Brisbane.

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And he was painfully present last season, a taxing, tumultuous period marred by injuries and a gruelling schedule.

Despite the flighty highs of becoming the first A-League team to win the Asian Champions League, the plummet came quick back home when they were beaten left, right and centre and slumped to second last at regular season's end.

But having been through the physical and emotional wringer and come out the other side, Bridge can no longer fathom such lows.

"Last year was an anomaly. It was a terrible year," the 29-year-old striker said.

"We had the travel with the ACL and stuff like that, and injuries.

"It's tough for any team. You can see that with how the ACL is structured now with teams getting maybe the weekend off after or a chance to rest and recover.

"Last year in my opinion was a one off. We've got a total new squad, total brand new way of playing football. It's hard to compare it to any other years."

Bridge, a veteran of more than 200 A-League matches, admitted the challenges of combining ACL and A-League were almost too much to bare, in an unforgiving schedule coupled with constant travel and playing in conflicting climates.

Football Federation Australia took the hint, tinkering with the 2015/16 draw to ensure teams in the ACL are granted sufficient rest between matches.

It renders the Wanderers' failure to qualify this year a double-edged sword - allowing a raw squad to focus on developing their new attack-minded approach, but carrying that uncomfortable feeling of being left out.

"This year, I'm not going to lie, it's good not having it," Bridge said.

"But you want to be back in that competition, you want to test yourself against the best.

"And I'm sure at the end of this season we'll be close enough to get back there."

The Wanderers play Newcastle at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

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