Bridge eyes third A-League grand final

 EYES ON THE PRIZE:   Mark Bridge has  a first-half shot  well saved by  Mark Birighitti.  Picture: Getty Images
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Mark Bridge has a first-half shot well saved by Mark Birighitti. Picture: Getty Images

HE has scored goals in grand final wins for Newcastle and Sydney FC, and Mark Bridge has no doubt the Western Sydney Wanderers are destined for similar success.

The A-League’s newest franchise surged to second on the ladder after a 2-1 victory against Newcastle on Saturday, their fifth on the spin, featuring a shining solo strike from Bridge.

 Five years ago, Bridge scored the most famous goal in Newcastle’s footballing history, in their 1-0 premiership triumph against Central Coast.

He also scored in Sydney’s 1-all draw with Melbourne in the 2010 decider, which Sydney won 4-2 on penalties.

Now he is on target to create a place in A-League history by becoming the first player to win titles with three clubs.

‘‘I feel like we’re on to something special here, whether it be this season or the next few seasons,’’ Bridge told the  Herald.

‘‘I think they’ve hit the nail on the head. I think it’s the sleeping giant of football, western Sydney.

‘‘The crowds are amazing, the atmosphere at every home game is brilliant. So it’s something special.

‘‘Whether it be this year we win the championship, or years to come, it’s going to happen.’’

Bridge said Western Sydney’s confidence was growing each week.

‘‘We’re on a bit of a roll at the moment,’’ Bridge said.

‘‘You want to be on these sort of rolls going into the finals. It’s good to have that consistency, but we’ve got some big games coming up.’’

Now 27, the winger said he was a ‘‘very different’’ player to the youngster who scored 13 times in 50 appearances for Newcastle. ‘‘I was only a kid then,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve grown up a lot in the last year.  

‘‘I’ve had a pretty up and down career, which is my own fault.  I think I’ve only really realised what it is to be a professional footballer this year.

‘‘Coming here has shown me not only what I have to do on the field, but off it as well.  I’m learning every day.’’

Bridge is one of six former Jets in the Wanderers squad.

Ante Covic, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Adam d’Apuzzo  played on Saturday.  Tarek Elrich and Labinot Haliti, were not selected.

‘‘You get that with the A-League,’’ he said. 

 ‘‘Players chop and change and there’s not a ridiculous amount of players like there is in Europe.’’

Wanderers also have a Novocastrian influence in their front office, in general manager John Tsatsimas, the former Jets CEO.

 Their fitness has been attributed to conditioner Adam Waterson, who left the Jets to join Wanderers in the pre-season.


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