On the day of Wayne Bridge’s 40th birthday, it only seems fitting to look back at his time at Stamford Bridge and what he achieved as a Blue.
Signing from his boyhood club Southampton in July 2003 for £7m, he slotted straight into the team and was a regular starter under manager Claudio Ranieri.
In the Champions League quarter-finals that season against Arsenal, Bridge scored the winning goal that sent the Blues into the semi-finals of the competition, the result ending Arsenal’s 18-game unbeaten run against Chelsea.
Despite it being in his first season with the club, the goal was considered Bridge’s finest moment in a Chelsea shirt.
A bright start, hindered
Following Ranieri’s departure, Chelsea hired Jose Mourinho as their new manager in June 2004 and Bridge remained a crucial part of Chelsea’s starting squad. However, a bad ankle injury in an FA Cup tie in February 2005 ended his season. A season to forget for Bridge in terms of not being able to contribute more to his side’s success that campaign, but having made over 15 appearances that season in the league meant he played enough to receive a league winners’ medal, as Chelsea won their first Premier League title in 50 years.
The 05-06 season saw Bridge struggle to regain his first team spot following injury, as Chelsea signed Spanish left-back Asier Del Horno. Limited first team opportunities saw him join Fulham on loan in January 2006.
He made his debut for the Cottagers in a 2–1 defeat to West Ham United at Upton Park. The move seemed to benefit him as he managed to secure his place in the England squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Chelsea won the Premier League again that season, but sadly Bridge was not eligible for a medal this time as he had not made a single league appearance for them all season.
The following season saw Chelsea sign Ashley Cole from Arsenal, but Bridge’s strong start to the campaign upon his return from loan saw him maintain the starting leftback place. Unfortunately, his good form was not enough to solidify his spot, as Mourinho started to favour Cole in future games. However, an injury to Cole in early 2007 saw Bridge return to first choice left back for the remainder of the season.
Bridge finished the 06–07 season with two cup final winner's medals after playing and winning both the League Cup Final 2-1 against Arsenal and the FA Cup Final 1-0 against Manchester United, capping off a fine season for Bridge.
Opportunities soon limited
The 07-08 season saw Bridge make just 22 appearances in all competitions and a place in the Chelsea team for the League Cup final against Tottenham meant he had played in his third cup final for Chelsea in just over two years. Sadly, the Blues ended the season without a trophy as they lost 2-1 to the Lilywhites.
The 08-09 season was Bridge’s final season at Chelsea and he made just 12 appearances in all competitions, before he moved to Mark Hughes’ Manchester City in January 2009 for a fee of £10m.
As good a player and loyal servant Bridge was for the Blues, he explained upon his departure that he was frustrated at his lack of game time at Stamford Bridge, his opportunities limited with Cole performing so well, and he felt the move was the best thing for his career.
“I thought I was going to play more games than I did, but it just wasn’t happening. I’m 28 and I need to be playing week in, week out. There was a point where I played a string of good games, but Ashley came straight back in. When I did, I think I played well, but no matter how I played I felt I wouldn’t be able to establish myself.”
Perhaps not the ending to his Chelsea career that he would’ve wanted, but Bridge will be remembered as a top player in his seven years at Stamford Bridge.