The Big Interview - Brad Friedel
23 May 2015|Tottenham Hotspur
Brad Friedel will pull his gloves on for the last time at Hotspur Way today (Saturday, May 23), throw himself around just like he's done for the best part of 25 years and then prepare for his last game as a professional at Everton on Sunday.
And that will be it.
The legendary goalkeeper who turned 44 on Monday (May 18) has called time on a glorious playing career that has spanned three decades and included playing spells at Liverpool, Galatasaray, Blackburn, Villa and finally Spurs - and not forgetting 82 caps for the USA.
Brad sat down with Spurs TV after making his announcement on May 14 and here is that interview in full...
How much of an emotional moment is this for you?
Brad Friedel: "It’s been a long-time coming. I don’t think it will be an emotional moment in terms of sadness because I couldn’t have asked for more - 23 seasons in professional football coming from where I come from, Cleveland, Ohio, where there is no professional league, plus the trials and tribulations it took for me to get a work permit. I’m in a very fortunate position. If I’d have retired 10 years ago I would have been a very happy man just to be able to come and play in the Premier League, which I consider the most competitive league in the world, for as long as I have, it’s been an absolute honour. I knew this day would come, it’s inevitable and I couldn’t be happier with how things have panned out."
It must be a momentous decision to make though as you could still play...
Brad: "Yes, I could still play and I feel as physically fit as ever. There came a time in my life where I needed to decide where to stabilise my kids, I have to think about their livelihoods, and this was the right time. I’m so thankful for John McDermott (Academy Manager) and the Academy, the staff and the board for allowing me so much time in the Academy to do my coaching badges. I’m now on my Pro Licence. I’ve signed on as an Ambassador at the club, primarily focusing on the US, so it’s not as if I’m cutting ties with Spurs, I’ll hopefully have a long-standing relationship with the club. I see the makings of a fantastic club here. It’s not easy with the amount of money in the game and every team wants to go into the golden chalice of the Champions League. It’s a very competitive environment. Hopefully I can make my small contribution along the way but I won’t be playing any longer."
Below: In training earlier this month...
What was it like when you first started in the Premier League? You were bit of a trailblazer for the US.
Brad: "It was mainly goalkeepers as well. John Harkes (Sheffield Wednesday, Derby) was the first outfield player to come here and do well, Roy Wegerle (QPR, Coventry) as well. Otherwise it was Kasey Keller, Juergen Sommer, myself, Mike Amman at Charlton, Ian Feuer had a couple of spells and then it’s been Tim Howard, Brad Guzan - we paved the way for the outfield players to come over here. US Soccer as a whole back in the late 1980s early 1990s needed to get a foothold in world soccer and there was a group of players who helped the likes of Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey to put a little of a stamp here, now we have Deandre Yedlin. We opened doors for a few players and long may that continue because when you have a mix of top players in the MLS and at top leagues around the world, it can only make our national team stronger."
But the US - including the MLS - wasn't in such good shape when you first broke through.
Brad: "There was no league in the US so players were playing bit-part roles in the likes of Romania, Hungary. I went to a big club in Norway, Brondby and I was fortunate to play for such a great club like Galatasaray, but it was hard for us at that time. As the years progressed, players like John O’Brien had a lot of playing time at Ajax, Claudio Reyna at Manchester City and Sunderland, Kasey and myself had long careers and many others across Europe so at the end of the 1990s, 2000 we had a collective of players who were very good and playing big roles at clubs around the world."
Spurs TV special - Brad's farewell to fans at the Lane
Here's the question everyone must ask - what is the secret of your longevity?
Brad: "I’d break that into different categories. I had a lot of setbacks when I was younger, so I’d say a determination to get to where I wanted to be, which as a goalkeeper was to play in England. I was turned down for work permit after work permit, so I would have to go back to the drawing board, which meant going to another club, playing games, playing internationals and getting enough caps to try again. It took me five years, so that perseverance was instilled in me. I was helped my goalkeeping coach at UCLA, Tim Harris, and when Tim and Sigi Schmid (UCLA manager) saw I had a talent, they pushed me to the limit between 18 and 20. Once I came over, I never wanted to leave. As your body and mind get older, you grow up and do things a little differently off the field and see how you can prolong your career. I’m very fortunate to be a goalkeeper so I don’t have to cover the kilometres on the pitch, I don’t go into the collisions so the risk of injury is less. If you keep your body weight down and keep your mind intent, as has been proved by a lot of goalkeepers, you can play well into your 40s. I never played for anything other than the love of the game and when you get to 35, 36, if you don’t truly love the game, that’s when a lot of players tend to pack in. I love being around the team, around the players day to day and I love being physically fit. From 31, 32, I attribute a lot of the longevity to yoga, diet – no secrets – just looking after yourself. If you stay fit and mentally strong, you can do it."
Below: In action for the USA against England at Wembley, 1994
You joined us in 2011, Gomes was here, Cudicini, you came in and became number one at the age of 40, which says a lot about you.
Brad: "I was surprised at the phone call at the time because if someone doesn’t see you every day, they might automatically think at 40, he’s not up to it. I knew the remit at the time, it was no secret, the club wanted a number one for a year and I could compete for that number one spot, but we were looking for a longer-term number one, which the club the size of Tottenham should do. At 40, I'm not a long-term number one. So I knew that, I had other offers, we decided we wanted to come to London, I saw the team-sheet and squad list – an unbelievable group of players – and I really thought it would only be a two-year event but here I am four years later and I’m signing on as Club Ambassador, so I think things went pretty well!"
When you joined us you were in the middle of your record consecutive PL run and we’re proud as club that you extended to 310 here.
Brad: "It was strange because as the run was going on, I didn’t really know anything about it until I went to Villa and someone told me ‘in 10 games, you’ll beat the record’. I did that and it went away again, I didn’t think about it, the games kept ticking on and I got to around 250 and people were saying ‘you know you’re at 250 now?’ and you just forget about it! I never went out thinking ‘I’ve got to play today because of the record’, I just trained as hard as I could to keep my form up to hopefully play at the weekend. A couple of times I got lucky, there was a frozen pitch up at Blackburn when I was going to have a fitness test and another time, I turned my ankle against Blackburn for Villa, we were playing Newcastle away next and I just made it for that game. Those were the only two times though in eight or nine seasons!"
Such a run is unlikely to happen again...
Brad: "Things can happen along the way. For instance, it might be towards the end of the season, you might not have much to play for and the manager will want to see how a younger goalkeeper plays. I’d be surprised if an outfield player ever got near it because with squads, squad rotations, injuries, that would be difficult. A goalkeeper might but there are twists and turns, injuries, a red card, anything could happen. Looking back, it’s quite remarkable in a sense but I never thought of it like that along the way."
So what will you be up to next?
Brad: "I’ve moved to Fox Sports on a five-year deal and I’ll be covering Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, MLS, Bundesliga, the next three World Cups and the MLS All All Star game in July. So I’ll see everyone in Denver! I’m also doing some coaching with the national youth teams as well. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in regards to retirement and most of the players all said that when you retire, you might think that you want to take three months, six months off but they all suggested to go straight into something because the time off isn’t all that you think it might be. I’m taking that advice and going straight into it."
Finally Brad, after so long in the game, does the prospect of retiring worry you at all?
Brad: "No, I’m mentally ready to stop playing. The club is in great hands from first team down to Academy level. The coaches are outstanding at this club. The decision was made some time ago but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be fit, playing and trying to do the best I can. I can’t see myself missing playing, maybe turning up every day and having a laugh with the boys, perhaps that, but I’ll now have a new family at Fox Sports to do that with."