Writer: Ollie Sheehan
Date:Wednesday March 1 2006
Chris Coleman yesterday shrugged aside the weekend defeat to Bolton Wanderers to hail Wayne Bridge as 'one of the best left-backs in the world'.
Cookie has been immensely grateful for the contribution Bridge has made to Fulham's season and only wishes the arrangement could be more permanant.
Coleman said of Bridge: “I knew he was a good player but I didn't realise he was this good. His attitude, his habits - they're all first class. We've got a lot of young defenders here at the club and we actually put on of Wayne's Fulham games on a CD and made them watch it.”
Since Bridge signed on loan for the club in the January transfer window he has played a part in every game and shown true and utter professionalism and enthusiasm since day one.
Coleman enthused: “He's been absolutely superb since he came here, and not just in football terms, but also in the way he's integrated into the dressing room. He's such a down-to-earth kid and the rest of the lads love him. He loves training and he loves being involved in the games. It's not been easy for him since he came here. He's not been match fit and he's been thrown in from the off and he's coped with it unbelievably. He's gone from strength to strength.”
Coleman knows that any chance of signing Bridge on a permanent deal was lost the day that Jose Mourinho walked into Stamford Bridge. He also conceded that he is already contemplating life without Bridge, but that he is just happy to have him aboard.
'If we could afford Wayne I'd make him my first signing, without a shadow of doubt. But I don't think we can afford him, and Jose Mourinho's made it clear to me that this arrangement is not about us signing Wayne permanently. It's a loan deal and he wants him back”, he exclaimed.
But Coleman is certainly grateful to Mourinho for offering such a precocious talent to him, even though it is only on a temporary basis and it is partially to fulfil his own club's needs to get Bridge fit again:
'Unless Jose says to me that there is a deal to be done, I wouldn't push it any further. I wouldn't disrespect him when he's already been good enough to give Wayne to us like this.”
With eyes on the future, looking ahead to when Bridge joins up with his Stamford Bridge team-mates again Coleman explained his reasons for taking Bridge on loan, albeit, for only four months:
'He'll be a very hard act to follow when he goes back to Chelsea, and that's the only downfall. It's been tough on Nic Jensen. Prior to Wayne coming, he played in the game when we beat Newcastle and did very, very well. But if you put your cards on the table, you're talking about one of the best left backs in the world, never mind just in this country. So if you have the chance of bringing him in, he's got to come.'
Date:Wednesday March 1 2006
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