FORMER Sunderland striker Michael Bridges is making a comeback to football after agreeing a new one-year contract with Australian club Newcastle Jets.
The 33-year-old hung us his boots before the start of last season after accepting an offer from the Jets to become a club ambassador internationally and to help out with training when he was at home.
But the forward, whose future at the highest level was cruelly cut short by two career-threatening ankle injuries, has kept himself in good shape since retiring, made a string of guest appearances last season, and has been persuaded to return to the game full time, heading off interest from America.
Bridges told the Echo: “Even though I’d packed in before the start of last season I was still asked to come and play now and then to fill in and I always enjoyed it.
“I’m still doing all the other stuff for the Jets but I’m happy to accept a one-year contract.
“Strangely, I feel in as good a shape as I’ve ever done and I’ve been flying in training.
“There was interest in me from the American Major League Side Dallas a few weeks ago – they’d been watching me last season and thought I could do a job for them – but my future is in Australia so I decided against it.”
He added: “I wouldn’t have gone around again and I don’t think the coaching staff would have given me the opportunity if they didn’t feel it was the right decision as well. I’ve looked after myself and it was great being back this week (at training).”
Bridges made more than 200 Premier League appearances and scored 68 goals in English club football in a well-travelled career which began in the 1995/96 promotion season when he broke into the first team as a raw but incredibly exciting 17-year-old.
He was tipped to make the step up from England Under 21 international to full England regular but injuries put an end to those dreams.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond said Bridges was an important member of the team with his experience and support for the club’s younger players.
He has scored 11 goals in 48 A-League appearances for the club and wants to continue to contribute.
“Obviously it’s up to the manager, but I’ll be hoping to get a lot more minutes on the park and to be starting more games,” said Bridges. “The competition for places is going to be hard so any part I can play would be great. But you want to play and score as many goals as you can and just be a part of it.
“Hopefully we can get in the top six and go one better than we did last year.”