Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Footballing World Turns Full Circle as Bridges Becomes a Jet-Setter; Geordie Wanderer Michael Swaps Sporty Life in Newcastle - for a Sporty Life in Another Newcastle Many Miles Away

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Footballing World Turns Full Circle as Bridges Becomes a Jet-Setter; Geordie Wanderer Michael Swaps Sporty Life in Newcastle - for a Sporty Life in Another Newcastle Many Miles Away

Article excerpt

Byline: John Gibson talks to MICHAEL BRIDGES

MICHAEL BRIDGES spent his formative years growing up in Whitley Bay and played, albeit fleetingly, in the famed black-and-white stripes of Newcastle United.

A footballer blessed by the gods with absorbing ability but cursed by the misfortune of serious injury which prevented him from partnering Alan Shearer in the lilywhite of England, at one time his inevitable destiny and the lasting dream of the man who discovered both - Jack Hixon.

While Shearer has gone off into retirement on the sofa of Match of the Day, Bridges at 34 remains a full-time footballer for whom the world has come full circle.

Bridges has returned to Australia playing for Newcastle and lives surrounded by familiar place names - Jesmond, Hexham, Whickham, Wallsend and Gateshead are all but a corner kick away.

Morpeth is roughly 12 miles up the road from Newcastle just as it has been for Geordies over countless decades and more.

Nought, it would seem, has changed. Except that is hardly the case. Far from it.

Michael has transported his family to the other side of the globe to Australia, though geography would suggest differently. This Morpeth is north of Newcastle right enough but in New South Wales and it is the Jets of Newcastle who employ Bridges not United, though the Aussies pay homage by wearing the black and white stripes of their illustrious forebears.

Everything bar, perhaps, the weather is a throwback to the city we all love.

It was originally populated by those banished from England's famous coal port to another Newcastle, at the mouth of the Hunter River which is presently the largest coal exporting harbour on Planet Earth.

Bridges told me: "The similarites are ridiculous really. "We live in Newcastle and are surrounded by familiar place names. At times I think we are back home.

"We have a ferry near the harbour mouth which is identical to the Shields ferry.

"The area has a real coalmining background and everyone helps each other out and loves sport. Does it sound familiar?

"We live in a part of the city called Bar Beach which is two hours north of Sydney. "The beach is about 200 yards away and all the family enjoy going down after the kids' school and for weekend barbeques. "However, I don't go in the sea because of the ruddy sharks. That is where it is different to Whitley Bay!" Newcastle in Oz originally gained a reputation as a hellhole because it was a place where the most dangerous convicts were banished to dig in the coal mines as harsh punishment for their crimes.

The link with Newcastleupon-Tyne, its namesake and also from where many of the 19th-century coalminers came, is still obvious to every eye.

It is so, as well, with its football club.

Bridges added: "We changed our away strip from dark blue to black and white two years ago when Nathan Tinkler, our new owner, took charge. …

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