Wandering Bridge eyes unprecedented hat-trick of titles

HE HAS scored goals in grand final wins for Newcastle and Sydney FC, and Mark Bridge has no doubt the Western Sydney Wanderers are destined for similar success.

The A-League's newest side surged to second on the ladder after a 2-1 victory against Newcastle on Saturday night, their fifth on the spin, which featured a sensational solo strike from Bridge.

Five years ago, Bridge scored the most famous goal in Newcastle's footballing history, in their 1-0 premiership triumph against Central Coast Mariners.

He scored in Sydney's 1-1 draw with Melbourne in the 2010 decider, which Sydney won 4-2 on penalties.

Now he is on target to create a place in A-League history by becoming the first player to win titles with three different clubs. ''I feel like we're onto something special here, whether it be this season or the next few seasons,'' the 27-year-old said.

''I think they've hit the nail on the head. I think it's the sleeping giant of football, western Sydney.

''The crowds are amazing, the atmosphere at every home game is brilliant. So it's something special. Whether it be this year we win the championship, or years to come, it's going to happen.''

Bridge said Western Sydney's confidence was growing each week. ''We're on a bit of a roll at the moment,'' he said. ''You want to be on these sorts of rolls going into the finals. It's good to have that consistency but we've got some big games coming up.''

The enigmatic winger said he was a ''very different'' player to the youngster who scored 13 times in 50 appearances for Newcastle. ''I was only a kid then,'' he said. ''I've grown up a lot in the last year. I've had a pretty up-and-down career, which is my own fault. I think I've only really realised what it is to be a professional footballer this year.

''Coming here has shown me not only what I have to do on the field, but off it as well. I'm learning every day.''

Bridge is one of six former Jets in the Western Sydney squad.

Ante Covic, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Adam D'Apuzzo played on Saturday night. The others, Tarek Elrich and Labinot Haliti, were not selected.

''You get that with the A-League,'' he said. ''Players chop and change and there's not a ridiculous amount of players like there is in Europe.''

Bridge has contributed eight goals and two assists this season, despite having played played in a wide role.

Coach Tony Popovic feels Bridge has found his ideal position. ''He's adapted very well,'' Popovic.

''I think early on in the year you could see the amount of chances he was getting and the amount of chances we were creating, he just wasn't scoring.

''For us, he's a winger, he's not a midfielder and if he was playing deep he wouldn't have the amount of chances he does.

''It's the same with Youssouf [Hersi]. They've got chances every game and good chances, not half chances. That's a positive for us, and we're becoming more clinical in the final third.''

With the Wanderers four points behind leaders Central Coast, Popovic can no longer play down his side's title hopes but says upcoming matches against third-placed Melbourne Victory (away), Perth (home) and the Mariners (away) will be decisive.

''It's a great time to be a player right now,'' Popovic said. ''We've got real games to look forward to and I'm sure after the next three games we'll know how high we can finish.''

The Western Sydney Wanderers beat the Newcastle Jets on the weekend.

The Western Sydney Wanderers beat the Newcastle Jets on the weekend.

The Western Sydney Wanderers beat the Newcastle Jets on the weekend.

The Western Sydney Wanderers beat the Newcastle Jets on the weekend.


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