'Stagnated' A-League fallen behind rest of Asia, says Bridge

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Western Sydney Wanderers veteran Mark Bridge says the A-League has stagnated and predicts it will be a long time before another Australian club emulates the Wanderers' 2014 AFC Champions League triumph.

No Australian team has advanced beyond the last 16 since 2016 and in the past two seasons the local representatives didn't make it out of the group stage.

"It's very difficult to play in Asia," said Bridge, who started in both legs of the 2014 final against Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal.

"You're coming to the tail end of the season here and then starting (the Champions League) that, players are carrying niggles.

"Older players, especially the foreigners, have had a full season under their belts so they might be struggling a bit and need a rest.

"But Asia has, since our win in the Champions League, kept improving where Australian football hasn't, has it?

"It's sort of stagnated a bit and the problem lies there.

"What we (Wanderers) did was remarkable, was incredible, but I think it will be a long time before we see an Australian team do that again."

Improving eighth-placed Western Sydney have collected seven points from their past three A-League games, but only have a faint chance of making the finals.

Bridge had no issue with public criticism of the team by their German coach Markus Babbel.

"He's straightforward; what you see is what you get," Bridge said.

"He speaks in the media like he does to the players, like nothing is a secret

"I think that's a problem at the moment in Australian football. When some harsh words are spoken people get their backs up, but sometimes you need to hear it.

'"It hasn't been good enough and he's a coach and he has every right to say that.

"He's trying to get the best out of the players for the club and if players don't like it, or people don't like it, they can move on."

Bridge played his first game in 11 months when he came off the bench in the Wanderers' last game.

Recurring calf injuries sidelined 33-year-old Bridge, who needs just three more appearances to bring up 250 A-League games.

"This period of my career has probably been the toughest," said Bridge, who is retiring at the end of this season.

"I definitely questioned whether I'd come back at all after so long out at my age."

Source AAP