Ex-Socceroo Mark Bridge signs with Chiang Rai United in Thai League
Former Socceroo Mark Bridge has brought down the curtain on an 11-year A-League career by signing with ambitious Thailand club Chiang Rai United.
The 30-year-old joins Chiang Rai United from Western Sydney Wanderers where he enjoyed four successful seasons, winning the AFC Champions League in 2014 after the Australians beat Al-Hilal in the final.
Coach Teerasak Po-on hopes that Bridge can help his side break into the Premier League of Thailand's top five, building on a solid start to their campaign. The Beetles are currently in sixth spot approaching the halfway point of the campaign and the Aussie becomes available once the first half of the PLT season has been completed at the end of June.
Teerasak believes his side are getting a versatile attacking player, who gives them a number of options. He told ESPN FC, "Bridge can play in several attacking positions. He can play on the wing, he can play at centre forward or as an attacking midfielder."
The ambitious club from the north of Thailand have also acquired midfielder Thitipan Puangchan from Muang Thong United to reinforce their side before the second half of the season. Competition for places among the rest of the foreign contingent will be tough so one of the club's four Brazilians seems likely to make way.
Bridge won the A-League Championship with Newcastle Jets in 2008 and with Sydney FC in 2010. He arrives after another good year, having scored 10 goals for Western Sydney this season.
He will soon be facing a familiar opponent as former Brisbane Roar skipper Matt Smith now plies his trade with Bangkok Glass in the PLT. Smith believes that Chiang Rai have made a good move in bringing his fellow Aussie to Thailand.
"I think that Mark, along with his qualities as a football player, will bring leadership and a winning mentality to the club," said Smith.
"He has been part of a successful club at Western Sydney Wanderers and at other times in his career."
"Mark is smart at identifying key areas and moving players out of position to open up space.
"He can play anywhere across the front line and is good with both feet. Finally, he has the ability to get into the box and take chances."
Bridge's career also included a brief loan spell with Chinese side Tianjin Teda in 2009 and he won two caps for the Socceroos. While any dreams of more international recognition may be over, Bridge arrives in Thailand with plenty of good years ahead of him and Chiang Rai fans will be hoping that he provides the catalyst to put their side among the big boys.
The player is scheduled for a medical on June 13 before putting pen to paper to complete his move to Chiang Rai.