FORMER Sunderland and Newcastle United striker Michael Bridges will retire from football at the end of the Australian season, which finishes later this week.

Bridges, who has spent the last five years playing in Australia’s A League, will call time on a 19-year playing career when his Newcastle Jets side take on Adelaide United on Friday.

The 35-year-old started his career with Sunderland, making his debut against Leicester in 1996 and scoring 21 goals in 92 appearances during his first spell with the Wearsiders.

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He joined Leeds United for £5m in July 1999 and helped the Elland Road club finish third in the Premier League, qualify for the Champions League and reach the UEFA Cup semi-finals.

However, he suffered a number of serious injuries that would plague him throughout the rest of his career and eventually left to join Newcastle on loan, making nine appearances for the Magpies in 2004.

He rejoined Sunderland in the 2004-05 season, playing another ten games, and went on to represent Bolton Wanderers, Bristol City, Carlisle United and Hull City before moving to Sydney FC.

A subsequent return to England was brief, featuring loan spells at Carlisle and MK Dons, and he headed back to Australia to join Newcastle Jets in the autumn of 2009.

“When you play professionally for as long as I have you see the highs and lows of football," said Bridges. "Thankfully I've been lucky enough to have great support around me throughout my career and I've loved and cherished every minute of it.

"Having the opportunity play football for a living is something that I never took granted and I'm extremely grateful for all the experiences I've had along the way."