Bridges announces retirement

by Stuart Vose

Former Sunderland man set to call time on career.

Former Sunderland man Michael Bridges has announced he will retire from football at the end of the current Australian campaign, with the regular season coming to a conclusion this week.

The 35-year-old, who plays in the Australian top flight with Newcastle Jets, broke the news on his official Twitter account.

“When you play professionally for as long as I have you see the highs and lows of football,” Bridges told the Football Australia website.

“Thankfully I’ve been lucky enough to have great support around me throughout my career and I’ve loved and cherished every minute of it.

“Having the opportunity to play football for a living is something that I never took for granted and I’m extremely grateful for all the experiences I’ve had along the way.”

Bridges is a well-loved figure on Wearside having begun his career with Sunderland as a youngster.

After debuting in a home draw with Leicester in August 1996, the forward went on to make 92 appearances in his first spell with the club, scoring 21 goals.

A tally of 12 strikes in 1998-99 was Bridges’ best seasonal return, including a brace of goals in a 7-0 demolition of Oxford and a further two as the Black Cats beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane later in the same campaign.

He moved on to Leeds for a reported £5m fee in July 1999 and later had a short spell at Newcastle before returning to Wearside, initially on loan.

Bridges added a further 21 appearances to his Sunderland tally and later featured for Bristol City, Carlisle and Hull before getting his first taste of Australian football courtesy of a loan spell in Sydney.

A return to England – featuring loan spells at Carlisle and MK Dons – was brief, and Bridges headed back Down Under in the autumn of 2009.

He has remained with the Jets ever since, scoring 12 goals in 65 appearances.

Potentially Bridges’ final game of a 19-year career will take place this Friday against Adelaide United on the last day of the Australian A-League season.

The Jets need to win and rely on results elsewhere if they are to make the end-of-season play-offs.