Brad's Euro quest
Brad Friedel has featured in nearly 800 appearances for club and country throughout his long and distinguished career, winning trophies along the way – and he tells tonight's official matchday programme how he would love to add another piece of silverware in the form of the Europa League to his collection.
For all Brad’s experiences in the game and his hundreds of matches, the Ohio-born goalkeeper has only played 31 times in European competition, and only four of those have been with us before tonight’s game.
His catalogue of appearances includes 82 caps for the USA which saw him feature at two World Cups, reaching the last eight of the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, while on the club scene, he won the Turkish Cup with Galatasaray in 1996 and the League Cup with Blackburn Rovers in 2002. The latter success came, of course, against us in a 2-1 win at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, when Friedel produced an outstanding performance to keep us at bay.
But the 41-year-old’s European adventures haven’t seen him progress any further than the quarter-finals and that’s something he is determined to put right this season, as we compete with Swiss side FC Basel for a place in the last four in this term’s Europa League.
Brad’s very first taste of European football came with Liverpool in September, 1998, when he kept a clean sheet in a UEFA Cup first round away leg against Slovakian outfit FC Kosice, and he added another Euro game that season in a third round match at Anfield against Celta Vigo, which Liverpool lost 1-0.
His most appearances in Europe so far have come during his time with Blackburn Rovers, featuring 20 times for the Ewood Park club - including a tie against Basel - while he also played five times for Aston Villa in continental competition.
And now he is hoping to double his four Euro appearances in our colours and help us at least reach the final of this season’s Europa League, which would mark our first European final since our 1984 UEFA Cup success here against Anderlecht.
“When the season starts and you look at the games in this competition, you know there is a long road ahead if you are to reach the latter stages of the tournament,” explained the shot-stopper.
“But as you progress each step along the way, the prize gets close and closer and as we go into tonight’s game, we are just four games away from hopefully being in the final. So we’re determined to keep our run going in the competition now because this is a great trophy to win.
“We’ve had to face some top teams along the way and every game has been tough, but we deserve to be at this stage. Now we have two more difficult games against Basel, but we’re confident of making the semi-finals over the two matches.”
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