USA

Record Breaking Stopper Friedel To Hang Up His Gloves

US goalkeeper Brad Friedel announces his retirement at the end of the season (Image from Getty)With two games left before the end of the season, Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel desire to play in one of these fixtures has intensified with the news that he will retire from the game at the end of the current campaign. If Mauricio Pochettino does select the US stopper to face either Hull or Everton, Friedel will become the oldest player in Premier League history beating the current record holder former Manchester City goalkeeper John Burridge. Friedel, who turns 44 on Monday has not featured this season for Spurs and has not played a competitive league match since November 2013.  Few would begrudge Friedel of that final swansong after a glittering career for club and country but sentimentality goes out of the window when sides are chasing places in Europe. Spurs currently sit in 6th place four points behind Liverpool, a point ahead of Southampton in 7th and two points ahead of Swansea in 8th. A win on Saturday may not be enough for Spurs to gamble throwing Friedel in to the mix for the final game against Everton, especially if Swansea and Southampton both win as well. Friedel will know the reality of the situation and will as always put the best interest of the club ahead of his own, even if that does mean missing out on that record.

Friedel makes an important stop for Villa against Spurs  (Image from AFP)
Friedel makes an important stop for Villa against Spurs
(Image from AFP)

Records are something that Friedel has been breaking his entire career that has spanned over 23 years, nine clubs and 668 appearances. He also managed to pick up 82 caps for the United States along the way too. He holds the record for most consecutive appearances in the Premiership (310 made between August 2004 and November 2012 and is only one of five goalkeepers to have ever scored in that league too (the others being Paul Robinson, Peter Schmeichel, Asmir Begovic and US teammate Tim Howard). He holds the record for number of appearances made by an American (450 to date) in the Premiership although that record could fall if the 36 year old Tim Howard continues his impressive run. Friedel also holds the record for most penalty saves during a World Cup group stage (two in the 2002 WC) that earned him the nicknamed of the human wall amongst the US supporters.

Brad Friedel has continue to play at the top level for longer than most in his position, which some believe was a direct results of him having to declare himself bankrupt in January 2011 after losing all his money in a failed soccer academy in Ohio. However as a goalkeeper Friedel had the luxury to do so as they do tend to play longer than their outfield colleagues by 3-4 years. That said few are still playing at the top level well into their forties with most dropping to the lower leagues in England or departing for other slightly slower global leagues.  But Friedel was still very much in demand for his services as his fortieth birthday approached. When Harry Redknapp took him to Tottenham in the summer of 2011, he was bought originally as a backup for Brazilian Heurelho Gomes but after he made several high profile errors and misjudgments, Friedel was handed the starting jersey and began the 2011-2012 season as Spurs No. 1. He would hold the jersey until the arrival of French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris finally displaced him.

Friedel was always destined to play in the Premiership. After making his name playing college soccer for the University of California, the then 23 year old Friedel began looking at clubs to start his professional career with. Moves to Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough and Newcastle under Kevin Keegan fell through due to work permit problems so instead Friedel joined Danish side FC Brondby on loan as back up for club legend Mogens Krogh. Despite not making a single appearance, Friedel did eventually seal a move to Europe with Galatasaray who were impressed with his performances for the US during the 1995 US Cup and Copa America campaigns. Bossed by Graeme Souness, Friedel made 30 appearances over the next season before returning to the US to play for Columbus Crew. He would be named Goalkeeper of the Year that season beating Jorge Campos, Tony Meola and Walter Zenga to that honour. That was enough to persuade Liverpool boss Roy Evans to part with £1.7 million to secure his services. Work Permit issues once again looked to torpedo the deal but they were overturned on appeal and Friedel was clear to make his debut against Aston Villa on February 28, 1998.  Despite finally making it to the Premiership, Friedel found playing time limited at Liverpool so when old boss Graeme Souness came calling in November 2000 with an offer to join Blackburn Rovers he jumped at it. Over the next eight years, Friedel would become one of the most consistent and best shot stoppers in the league, first helping Rovers to promotion then cementing their place in the league. By now competition for his signature had amplified and with Manchester City sniffing around, Aston Villa swooped in with a £2.5 million offer in order to get their man. He joined Villa during the summer of 2008 and would play for them for three seasons before eventually making the move over to Tottenham.

A young Brad Friedel during his Galatasaray days  (Image from Getty)
A young Brad Friedel during his Galatasaray days
(Image from Getty)

Friedel was selected for three US World Cup squads, playing in the 1998 and 2002 tournaments as No.1 and providing back up to Tony Meola during the 1994 World Cup. He is the fourth most capped goalkeeper in US history behind Tim Howard, Kasey Keller and Meola. He retired from international football in 2005 in an effort to prolong his playing career which appears to have worked. Regardless of whether Friedel gets on to the field for his final Premiership swansong or not, the US stopper will go down as one of the greatest players ever to grace English football.

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