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Thursday, January 19, 2006
ESPNsoccernet: January 20, 8:40 AM UK
Fulham sign Bridge on loan

Wayne Bridge is set to make his Fulham debut in a full-blooded London derby after arriving at Craven Cottage on loan to boost his World Cup chances.

Bridge completed his move from Chelsea for the rest of the season and will go straight into the side for their trip to West Ham at Upton Park on Monday night.

The televised game will give Bridge, 25, the perfect opportunity to show England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson he is still good enough to resurrect an international career that was blighted by the fractured ankle he sustained last season.

It has been a long road back for the former Southampton player who cost Chelsea 7 million in 2003, and he has not started a Barclays Premiership game for the reigning champions this season.

His lack of action was threatening to undermine his chances of playing a part for England on the world's biggest footballing stage this summer.

Opportunities at Chelsea were limited due to coach Jose Mourinho's faith in Spain left-back Asier del Horno and France international William Gallas.

Bridge turned to Chris Coleman's Fulham after Tottenham could not guarantee the left-back a regular place in their side.

Spurs coach Martin Jol confirmed the two parties had held talks but the Dutchman could not give Bridge the first-team assurances he was looking for and the defender opted to try elsewhere instead.

Eriksson has made it clear Bridge needs to prove his fitness by playing regularly in the top flight if he is to stand any chance of being included in his plans for Germany.

Bridge has less than four months to show he is worthy of a place in England's campaign - starting against the Hammers on Monday.

'I'm really happy to join Fulham for the remainder of the season,' he told Fulham's official website. 'I think that the next few months is an incredibly important period for me to be playing regular football, as I would obviously love to be part of the manager's plans for the World Cup.

'Fulham is a nice club with a great atmosphere, but most importantly they play good football under Chris Coleman.

'I did have other choices offered to me, but this seemed to be the best option for me at this time.'

Delighted Coleman added: 'Wayne Bridge is a world-class player and we are more than delighted to have him on board for the remainder of the season.

'Obviously with the World Cup around the corner Wayne is keen to play regular football and given that some big clubs were interested in signing him this window, we are delighted that he has chosen Fulham.

'Therefore - with the securing of Tony Warner's services and the signing of Simon Elliott, Antti Niemi and now Wayne - I am more than happy with the way things are progressing this window, with the support of the chairman and the board.'

Bridge will not be able to play against Chelsea when the champions visit Craven Cottage in March but his move has the backing of Eriksson's number two - Tord Grip.

'If he gets more football with another club it is a good move because he needs to play,' said Grip. 'Sven likes him and so do I.'

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