The English Premier League has been a proving ground for American goalkeepers, and Brad Friedel might just peak at the top of that tree for his Aston Villa experience alone.
His Early Work Permit Issues
It’s not very easy for overseas players to play in the Premier League
Up until that stupid (and clearly racially motivated) Brexit decision, players from the EU could easily (and freely) move into the United Kingdom under the Free Movent of Trade article in the European Convention of Human Rights.
But now, they will face the same issues that all non-EU players have to – in that there are a number of factors that need to be weighed to authorise their employment in the UK.
Such as: their fee, club experience, projected wages and international recognition.
Brad Friedel knows exactly what this feels like first hand, as he failed not once, not twice but three separate times to force through a move to the English Premier League since turning professional in 1993.
It began with a successful trial followed by an unsuccessful negotiation with Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, before Celtic came calling. They too, were wafted away by the authorities before Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle allowed him to train until he figured it out.
Brad Friedel’s Early Premier League Years
Galatasary offered him an opportunity, before Liverpool became his 1st English home.
Even then, Liverpool themselves were made to request an appeal for the initial decision to reject Brad Friedel’s work permit on the basis that he was yet to represent the US Mens’ National Team for as often as was necessary to satisfy their threshold.
Nevertheless, they got their man, and the American stopper initially did well in Liverpool colours before competition arrived from David James and Sander Westerveld.
The European disposition of their coming managers rendered him a 3rd choice.
And this time, there wasn’t much competition for his spot.
The Blackburn Rovers Days (2000-08)
Far from the days of winning the Premier League with Jack Walker’s millions, Blackburn Rovers had just been promoted back to the top division by the time they needed Friedel.
Filling Tim Flowers’ shoes would never be easy, but the potential was clear.
Standing at 6’ 3” tall, with a naturally broad frame and clear mind sitting on top, Brad Friedel must rank as one of the best free transfers to have ever been conducted in the history of the Premier League – especially in between two clubs in the league.
At Liverpool, his distribution and ball-playing skills were apparently key in forging that divide between him and The Reds hierarchy, but in reality, he wasn’t given much chance.
25 games across three years (with less than half in the league) was nowhere near enough to establish much consistency as a European-chasing goalkeeper. But at Blackburn, he found a place where the expectations of the club mirrored where he was looking to develop, and the two could develop a close, fair relationship for however long it lasted
As it turns out, that would be 8 seasons.
Where he would be inducted into their Hall of Fame.
“I had a tremendous time of not just my career but my lifetime playing at Blackburn. I thought it was a truly impeccably run club at the time I was here and it is just incredibly fond memories of my time.”Brad Friedel’s Blackburn Hall of Fame induction speech
Brad Friedel Moves to Aston Villa (2008/09)
Of course, his phenomenal rise at Blackburn didn’t go unnoticed.
And it came at the perfect time for the priming American shot-stopper.
Now 27 years of age and officially crowing his Blackburn legacy with that Hall of Fame induction, a number of other suitors came calling for Brad Friedel to become their number one choice. Including Manchester City, apparently.
Sheikh Mansour’s millions had barely had time to settle in City’s bank account by this point, and given their soiled relationship with ex-owner Thakshin Shinawatra, their bid didn’t even seem all too legitimate. Especially with their oil-rich funders not showing face until they secured that signing first. Robinho’s Deadline Day move came too late for his consideration.
They did end up shelling out some bucks for Shay Given in the January window, but by this point, Brad Friedel had already accepted the advances of Aston Villa.
Thomas Sorensen leaving that same summer on a free transfer to Stoke City cemented his place as number 1, as did bringing in compatriot Brad Guzan from Chivas USA.
With his firm American rump plonked firmly between those proud Villain sticks, Brad Friedel embarked on what would be a record-setting journey in those colours.
The Premier League Consecutive Appearances Record
Until November 2008, the record in the English Premier League for consecutive appearances set by any one player was 167 starts.
Our Friedel adorned this occasion with a clean sheet against Fulham.
From that point on … he didn’t really stop!
Former employers Liverpool threatened to ruin his legacy after he was sent off for a perceived trip on Steven Gerrard which led to a penalty he dispatched beyond a despairing Brad Guzan, but the red card (and subsequent ban) was rescinded by the FA on appeal, and he continued his streak with aplomb.
He ended up with 250 consecutive appearances, became the oldest player to play for Villa at 39 years old in the Premier League, and then moved to Spurs where he eventually retired at the grand old age of 43.
Not a bad record for a man who wasn’t wanted in the first place!