Psychologists claim to be able to determine a person's true character solely by a shake of the hand. They believe they can tell whether their subject is confident but conservative or languid and liberal and they report that laymen too, subconsciously, read these signs and take decisions accordingly. When John Terry, the Chelsea captain, lines his team up against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge tomorrow afternoon for the pre-match exchanges, he is going to learn a lot about the true character of Wayne Bridge. But it is unlikely to be deduced simply from the City left-back's handshake.
Bridge, 29, yesterday quit the England national squad following the recent disclosure of Terry's affair with Vanessa Perroncel, Bridge's former partner and mother of his child, and it would be remarkable were he to look the Chelsea centre-back in the eye and accept his proffered hand. "I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks," Bridge said in a statement. "It has always been an honour to play for England. However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive.
"Sadly, therefore, I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection. I have today informed the management of this decision." Bridge's refusal to join a team that will undoubtedly include Terry has left England's manager, Fabio Capello, stretched for options (see below) as he prepares to name a 23-man squad for a March 3 friendly with Egypt.
Ashley Cole, Terry's teammate at Chelsea, remains on the sidelines with a fractured ankle, and there are serious doubts whether he will be fit enough for the World Cup in June. That leaves Capello with two recognised left-backs in Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock and Everton's Leighton Baines, who are both in commendable form of late. Villa have conceded fewer goals than any other team in the top four tiers of English football, while Everton have won four of their last five games, including back-to-back victories over Chelsea and Manchester United. But, worryingly for Capello, a ruthless strategist, both players lack international experience; Baines is uncapped while Warnock's England career consists of a six-minute run-out against Trinidad and Tobago in 2008.
Which is why the Italian tactician may look to explore different options. Baines's teammate, Phil Neville, has been exceptional on the left side of defence at Goodison Park in recent weeks and, having been capped 59 times for his country, would not be overcome by the occasion. Likewise, Gareth Barry, probably Manchester City's best player this season, started his career and made his England debut at left-back, before moving to central midfield.
Capello has decisions to make before naming his squad tomorrow night, and with Everton travelling to Tottenham on Sunday and Villa facing Manchester United at Wembley in the Carling Cup, both matches will come too late to influence his decision. The same cannot be said of tomorrow's early clash at Stamford Bridge. Much will be interpreted from the expressions of Terry and Bridge as they come face to face, but those looking for early clues of Capello's conclusions need not bother. The Italian's face will remain, as always, firmly concealed behind his granite mask. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Cole, Chelsea Facing an acrimonious divorce from his pop star wife, Cole, pictured could also suffer World Cup heartbreak if he fails to recover from the broken ankle he sustained against Everton earlier this month. Capello will be crossing his fingers that Cole is fit. Stephen Warnock, Aston Villa The Liverpool Academy product has been earning rave reviews for his contribution to a parsimonious Aston Villa defence. His composure, athleticism and sweet left foot should serve him well at international level. Gareth Barry, Manchester City The defensive midfielder started off his career at left-back but Capello will be loath to move Barry from his anchoring midfield role which allows the creative talents of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to flourish. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City The Manchester City defender has only recently returned from knee surgery and has so far struggled under the burden of the huge transfer fee City paid Everton for his services. Was, however, voted Everton's Player of the Year in for his performances at left-back in 2008. Leighton Baines, Everton Phil Neville, the former England full-back, believes his teammate is the form left-back in the country but the Under 21 international is yet to win a senior cap. The conservative Capello is unlikely to opt for inexperience on the biggest stage of all. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal Seen by many as the natural successor to Cole but the England Under-21 full-back suffered the dreaded metatarsal injury in November and is out for the rest of the season.