All a-Twitter over troubled Bridges

SPORTING Declaration is a massive fan of the Simon and Garfunkel classic Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

Today I’m going to put a slightly different spin on those timeless lyrics by throwing cold water over a troubled Bridges.

Michael Bridges, that is, the Jets veteran who this week became the latest sporting luminary to goose himself on Twitter.

Bridges no doubt enjoyed five-star treatment in his halcyon days, during which he made more than 200 Premier League appearances for big clubs such as Newcastle United, Leeds, Sunderland and Bolton.

But it was something of a reality check for the 33-year-old and his teammates when they travelled to Canberra on Monday for a training camp and were accommodated at the Australian Institute of Sport.

Soon after arriving at their lodgings, players started tweeting about staying in ‘‘the worst room in history’’ and making references to ‘‘jail cells’’ and asking ‘‘how much is bail?’’

Bridges then posed for a photo climbing into a bunk bed, which again was posted on Twitter.

All of which, of course, was obviously banter between mates who were larking about ... but was stated on the public record for thousands of followers to scrutinise.

While delivered in a light-hearted manner, there was always a chance that someone, somewhere, would find such comments disrespectful.

As an AIS spokesman noted: ‘‘The AIS residences in Canberra have provided accommodation suitable for high-performance athletes over a number of years.

‘‘Athletes staying in the AIS residences have included Olympians, world champions and professional sports people from all walks of life. Athletes and groups have a choice of accommodation ranging from single rooms, double rooms and bunk accommodation.’’

Personally, I’m a bit over Twitter. Maybe it’s my short attention span, but after a brief surge of excitement when Jennifer Hawkins tweeted me (true story) a few months ago, the novelty soon wore off.

But in this day and age, some people tend to take it seriously.

Hence, when former Knight Mark Taufua labelled incoming coach Wayne Bennett a ‘‘9-ball’’ on Twitter, the Hunter Sports Group fined him $5000, even though he apologised, explained that he was ‘‘just mucking around, being silly’’ and had already played his last game for the club.

This columnist can only guess as to whether Bridges and his mates copped similar sanctions.

My Newcastle Herald colleague, James Gardiner, made inquiries about the matter but received no reply from HSG.

But not long afterwards, the tweets were removed, which would suggest that somebody higher up the food chain may not have been amused.

Rather than showing a degree of circumspection, Bridges got on the front foot when the Herald reported the incident the following day.

Bridges was ‘‘disappointed at how far things have been taken out of context’’, said the yarn was ‘‘desperate’’ and ‘‘sad’’, and labelled the Herald ‘‘amateurs’’.

The Canberra Times, incidentally, followed the story up. They thought it newsworthy.

And the tabloids in Bridges’s homeland traditionally dine out on such faux pas.

Then, after scoring twice in a 9-1 win against the Canberra Rockets, the popular but injury-plagued striker tweeted: ‘‘Wonder if we get as many headline in the Herald 4 a top team performance ??? Eeeeemmmmm won’t hold my breath’’.

I’m willing to cut Bridges some slack, because back when he played at the highest level, there was no Twitter.

It was a long time ago, after all.

But I would point out that Bridges did not seem to have any complaints about the Herald when we publicised the opening of his Darby Street restaurant, printed happy-family photos after he was granted Australian residency, snapped him having dinner with David Beckham, or when we saluted his career after he made an emotional, albeit brief, retirement.

I would also like to state for the record that, on a number of occasions, Football Federation Australia has commended the Newcastle Herald for providing the most comprehensive coverage of the round-ball code by any Australian paper.

The Herald has been reporting on football in this region since the days of Reg Date, Ray Baartz, Col Curran, Craig Johnston and KB United.

When Newcastle won the A-League grand final four years ago, we lauded them with a plethora of stories, photographs and posters.

If any of the players involved in that game were still at the Jets, I’m sure they would tell Bridges the same. Sadly, none are left.

Unfortunately for Bridges, despite his big reputation, in three years with Newcastle he is yet to kick a ball in a finals match.

Last season he scored just twice in 17 games. For the Jets to rebound after two lean seasons, they need their senior player to recapture some of his old magic.

My advice to Bridges is Twitter is a public forum.

Tread warily.

Rather than shooting the messenger, I’d prefer he stuck to shooting for goal.

Follow me on Twitter: @robertdillon174

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