China experience benefited Bridge

He didn't know it at the time, but living out his very own Lost in Translation moments in the Chinese city of Kunming was to be the making of Mark Bridge – the footballer and the man.

He didn't know it at the time, but living out his very own Lost in Translation moments in the Chinese city of Kunming was to be the making of Mark Bridge - the footballer and the man.

The Sydney FC striker spent a lonely four-month loan spell at Tianjin Teda FC at the beginning of the year, the football, lifestyle and language barrier all proving a struggle.

Bridge played in Tianjin's doomed Asian Champions League campaign and then found himself on the outer once the Chinese League began.

The 24-year-old felt like kissing the tarmac at Sydney Airport when he touched down in May, his stay in the Yunnan Province proving more ordeal than ideal.

Almost a year on, Bridge now looks back on his time in China in a slightly softer light.

"It was hard over there but it was something different for me," he recalled.

"I played the Asian Champions League and then when it came time for the season I didn't really play much, I was just training."

"I was over there by myself and couldn't speak a lick of the language."

"There were a couple of foreign players who could speak a bit of English so I mainly hung out with them."

"Apart from that I just did a lot of walking; there really wasn't much to do away from football."

"It was difficult but it matured me as a player and made me realise how good we have it back home."

"It was an experience - maybe not the best experience - but still an experience nonetheless."

Slow to get going after returning from China, Bridge didn't figure prominently in coach Vitezslav Lavicka's early season plans at Sydney.

Bridge accepted the fact he'd have to fight to prove himself to the new gaffer, all the while promising himself he would not give Lavicka an excuse to drop him from the starting XI once he got there.

When the 2008 Olympian finally cracked it for a starting spot, he made good on his word.

Six goals in 11 starting appearances and a blossoming partnership with strike partner Alex Brosque helped the Sky Blues on a mid-season run that saw them at the Hyundai A-League summit for a period.

It also showed a new, mentally tougher, side to the Bridge we knew pre-China.

"I've been pretty happy with the way it's been going the last month or so," Bridge said.

"I started off pretty slowly and had to work myself back into the team and I think this year I've improved a fair bit."

"I've become a little bit more professional and it's paid off."

"Being consistent was my main problem (and) I can't write it off as being a young player anymore."

"I'm getting older now in soccer years and my consistency is getting better."

"It's (the time in China) helped me a fair bit."

Bridge has not ruled out another overseas stint in the future, but there is only one destination on his mind for 2010 - South Africa

Qantas Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has commented favourably on the frontman's recent form and showed he is willing to take a punt on Hyundai A-League talent by inviting Brosque to Oman for Australia's recent Asian Cup qualifier.

A World Cup spot is a long shot but Bridge is at least in the frame.

"That's always a good sign when your name is brought up," he said.

"It's also a positive sign 'Brosquey' got called up to what was basically a European-based squad."

"It shows A-League players that their hard work will pay off."

"All I can do is concentrate on Sydney and whatever happens at the end of the year is a bonus."