Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWayne Bridge – The latest member of the Bogarde club - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Wayne Bridge – The latest member of the Bogarde club - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Wayne Bridge – The latest member of the Bogarde club

A tug of sadness must be felt in football, especially for Wayne Bridge. You see, his existence is truly a strange one. He trains alone at Manchester City and hasn’t played a first team game since December, but for all the gates around his massive house and the fact that he is taking out Frankie from The Saturdays out on his £90,000 a week still leaves him feeling empty. You see, Bridge is now joining “The Bogarde Club”

For those who are unawares, Bogarde made only four first-team starts for Chelsea, in the period of a four-year contract. And one of those was against Gillingham in the League Cup, which is as close to a second-team start as a first-team start gets. Yet his salary of circa £40,000 a week ensured that the Rotterdam-born central defender was a towering presence on the club’s wage bill, where he was an ever-present from the beginning of the 2000-01 season until the end of 2003-04. That makes him, by any standard, a wage-bill legend.

Certainly in terms of sheer tenacity, Bogarde was a one-off. There’s an accusation you hear levelled at foreign imports all the time: sure, they’re happy to pick up a pay packet while the sun is shining, but can they bank a salary on a wet Tuesday night in Bolton when they haven’t been picked? And, if he did nothing else, Bogarde silenced football’s cynical xenophobes with a resounding “yes, I can”.

He added to those four first-team starts with Chelsea a further eight appearances as substitute in the 2000-01 season, but for the next three years he made absolutely no appearances at all. Thus, when the Dutchman Bogarde announced that he was “hanging up his boots” – it did inevitably pose some questions about the exact whereabouts of Bogarde’s boots were. In his fourth and last season at Chelsea, he had no squad number and was training with the youth team. (He was also said to be commuting from Amsterdam, although Bogarde fiercely denied this.) Yet you could not budge him. In an age when footballers’ contracts suddenly did not appear to be worth the paper they were written on, Bogarde took what will go down as the last great stand on behalf of the written deal. His word was his bond. He stuck by it until the end.

Assuming that Bogarde was on Chelsea’s books for three years and ten months, he earned £8,240,000, and, if the story about commuting was true – the club might at least have recouped some of their money in fines for lateness. As it is, Bogarde’s average of £686,666 per appearance is impressive.

But then, even the story of his signing is an example of the kind of fairytales that only football provides. Merely four months before Bogarde arrived at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had played Barcelona in a Champions League quarterfinal. A plan was formulated, allegedly by Graham Rix, the Chelsea assistant manager at the time, to target the opposition’s soft spot — namely, Bogarde. Chelsea, with Tore Andre Flo on fire, bombed all over the floundering Dutchman and were 3-0 up by half-time. Alas, Barcelona’s pressure was too much for Chelsea in the away leg and they went through.

Ripple dissolve to August, though, and there is Bogarde awakening to find that the club who had identified him as the weakest link only a couple of months earlier are beckoning him aboard on a Bosman with a big fat salary attached.

Needless to say, some critics have argued that circumstances at Chelsea were soon to leave Bogarde “in the comfort zone”. But it takes a certain kind of character to earn £40,000 a week for nearly four years for doing next to nothing. You must remember that there is only so many games of EA Sports’ FIFA you can play, so boredom levels must have been at an all time high. As a footballer who never had to work weekends, Bogarde would certainly have had some spare time to manage. I never saw his lawn, but I would wager it was a sight to behold.

 “I won’t miss football,” Bogarde claimed in his official announcement this week. “The game has been good to me, with the exception of my period at Chelsea, but now I’m not interested any more.”

“With the exception of my period at Chelsea?” That hurts. I would like to think that the supporters made him comfortable, even if the club’s £8,240,000 didn’t. But while there is any doubt, the least the club can do is dispel any lingering resentment by offering Bogarde the traditional tribute for services loyally rendered — a testimonial?

He never really got the chance to say goodbye to the fans. But, to be fair about it, his hello wasn’t all that clear-cut, either.

So spare a thought for Wayne Bridge as he takes his girlfriend out for dinner and driving about in his sports car, for he is a member of The Bogarde Club, and when a footballer finds himself at the doors of The Bogarde, then its only a matter of time before he retires and slurs in his local pub “I Played in a World Cup for England” before being slung out for excessive lying.

Ross Fisher

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