In Goal.com's latest Euro 2012 exclusive, former English Premier League striker Bridges says England can reach the knockout stages, but has concerns over a tumultuous lead-up
By Paddy Higgs | Chief editor
Michael Bridges believes England will progress through Group D at Euro 2012, and says it was the speculation over John Terry's international future and not the search for a new manager that greater overshadowed the Three Lions' preparations.
The former Sunderland and Leeds United striker - now with A-League club Newcastle Jets - has watched on as off-field matters have undermined England's forthcoming campaign in Poland and the Ukraine, with expectations seldom lower for the nation before a major tournament.
Losing Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill and Frank Lampard through injury shortly before the Euros was bad enough, but it was speculation over Terry's place in the camp and Fabio Capello's replacement that had already dominated the headlines in the lead up.
Terry was included in the squad Roy Hodgson named in May despite the pending court case over charges the Chelsea captain racially abused Anton Ferdinand in an English Premier League match in November.
Terry was preferred in the final 23-man squad to Ferdinand's brother Rio, himself a former captain of the national team.
Hodgson had been appointed as just weeks earlier, after the English FA took their time in finding a replacement for Fabio Capello.
Capello had resigned in February following the FA's decision to strip Terry of the England captaincy over the racism allegations, with Harry Redknapp long tipped for the position but inevitably overlooked in favour of Hodgson.
Bridges believes the John Terry scandal has badly disrupted England's Euro 2012 preparations.
Veteran striker Bridges did not waste words when describing the build-up for his country.
"To be honest with you, after everything that's gone on… it's been a shambles for the country, in regards to preparation for the Euros," Bridges, 33, told Goal.com.
"The only saving grace is that the players have actually stuck together and backed Roy Hodgson.
"I know they've got to do that, but I think the people's choice was Harry Redknapp, as were [the choices] of a lot of the players."
But Bridges, who made 11 appearances for England's Under-21 side, believes it is the Terry scandal that has proved more harmful to his country's preparations for the Euros.
"The managerial thing has been disruptive, but the whole John Terry thing with Rio Ferdinand has been more," he said.
"The players didn't know who they'd be able to trust and who they could talk to, in regards to what went on.
"That's been more detrimental."
|"The managerial thing has been disruptive, but the whole John Terry thing with Rio Ferdinand has been more."
- Michael Bridges
England share Group D with France, Sweden and the Ukraine, with their campaign to begin on Monday against the former.
Star striker Wayne Rooney will miss the Three Lions' opening two group matches through suspension, but Bridges believes he can still be the star man for Hodgson [pictured] at the tournament and has predicted the Manchester United man could even one day captain his country.
But despite Rooney's absence early in the campaign and the other issues England with which have had to contend, Bridges still thinks they can escape Group D and reach the knockout stages at Euro 2012.
Equalling their final-four place at Euro 1996 might not be out of the question, either.
"Realistically, I think [England should make] the quarter-finals," Bridges said.
"To scrape through to the semis would be an achievement."