Bridges living his dream

Jets veteran Michael Bridges said he is 'living the dream' after making a successful comeback from retirement to play a major part in Newcastle's push for a Hyundai A-League finals berth.

Jets veteran Michael Bridges said he is 'living the dream' after making a successful comeback from retirement to play a major part in Newcastle's push for a Hyundai A-League finals berth.

The long road back from football obscurity culminated on Saturday evening when he scored his first goal since his retirement when he slotted home a Ruben Zadkovich through-ball midway through the second half to hand the Jets a convincing 3-0 win over the Melbourne Heart.

"It was a great relief (to score)," Bridges said.

"The main thing was the three points that the guys got at home in front of a crowd, but I am not going to kid anybody to get the goal was the icing on the cake.

"Obviously I retired last year and I didn't think this was ever going to happen again and to get the monkey off my back has been absolutely brilliant. I am delighted."

After an injury-plagued career, the former England Under 21 international was thriving as the first international captain of the Jets when he injured his knee and needed reconstructive surgery midway through the 2010/11 A-League season.

His recovery was slower than expected and he announced his retirement in the off-season.

He now admits he was 'talked into' hanging up his boots but he was offered a role at the Newcastle club as football development manager, which kept him around the game.

To keep fit and to pass on advice he started training with the team and found that his knee was holding well and he quickly improved his fitness.

When marquee signing Jason Culina was ruled out for the season with injury, Bridges was in the right place at the right time to announce his comeback.

"Obviously when Dutchy (van Egmond) came in it was a big thing for him to give me a spot and I thank everybody who played a part from the backroom staff to the manager to the fitness guys," Bridges said.

"It has been damn hard work and even more so to stay when you get there, but I realise what I want and how I want it. I am loving it at the moment and long may it continue.

"It is a credit to everyone at this football club for giving me this chance again."

The 33-year-old is repaying the club with some sparkling form on the field as well as helping the younger lads out on the training pitch.

And he is a fan favourite at Hunter Stadium.

When he scored against the Heart last Saturday he made an extended run to the Eastern grandstand at Hunter Stadium to celebrate in front of a giant banner that read 'Go Bridgey!'.

"Thanks to John Hersee (signwriter/painter) he is a big fan of mine and honoured to have that," Bridges said.

"He must have known something because I got a text before the game that said if you score come over our way because we've got something special for you, because tonight is your night."

Bridges almost made it two for the afternoon when he fired a long-range rocket that had Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton scrambling to tip the shot over the crossbar.

"As Dutchy (Jets coach Gary van Egmond) has been saying we are full of confidence at the moment and shooting from anywhere," Bridges said.

"We are taking what we are doing on the training ground and emulating that during the match so I couldn't have caught it any sweeter so I will credit to Boltsy (Bolton) for that one, he made a great save.

Van Egmond has been using Bridges in tandem with fellow EPL star Francis Jeffers.

Both possess great touch and vision and can bring other players into the game, and despite the fact that he is not starting, Bridges is happy to play his role in the squad.

"Whether it is Frannie starting or myself it is always a fresh set of legs coming on, and it is always different, if we are winning Dutchy might say, 'go on and hold the ball up and run it into the corner, to kill the game off and we have been doing that," the affable Englishman said.

"If we are behind and under the pump I don't mind having a go - I have to control myself because I am always trying to go for the killer pass or the killer ball - that is in my nature and that is how I play; off the cuff and I am loving it."

With his fitness at a peak and his love of the game there for all to see Bridges is more than capable of playing on next season, but he hasn't quite made his mind up about that just yet.

"The way the legs are going yeah, but that is a conversation for another day."