Forever young: American Goalkeeper Friedel Eyes Another Season at 42
LONDON — Back from his summer break and ready for yet another season, Brad Friedel is savoring every last second of his time on the field.
At 42, the American goalkeeper still has the hunger — for the preseason routines and the fight for playing time at Tottenham. But the player who holds the Premier League record for the most consecutive appearances (310) knows this must end one day.
With that in mind, Friedel is spending time in the classroom, earning his coaching qualifications and planning for the future.
“Whether it’s coaching or management or technical director, I don’t know,” Friedel said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. “We have to wait to see if someone wants me to do it. But right now I still have my playing head on.
“But it’s while I’m still playing that it’s the best time to do your badges, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting something around the corner.”
The immediate target is to challenge Hugo Lloris for the spot in goal when the new season begins in August.
“My body feels great, it feels the same as it has done the last 10 years or so, so we’ll see how it keeps going,” Friedel said after being fitted in Tottenham’s new jersey.
“I still want to play until I can’t play anymore, but I don’t want to be a situation where I am done playing and I need to spend two, three years on getting my badges.”
Friedel will have a vast storehouse of knowledge once he starts coaching. He has made a lot of stops along the way. He played for the Columbus Crew from his home state of Ohio, Galatasaray in Turkey and Brondby in Denmark before making the move to England in 1997. After three years at Liverpool came eight seasons at Blackburn and three at Aston Villa before being enticed by Tottenham in 2011.
Both seasons he’s played at Tottenham has resulted in just missing out on qualifying for the Champions League.
In 2011-12, the crucial fourth place was secured, but the Spurs’ spot was taken by Chelsea after their London rivals finished outside the top four but qualified for the Champions League by winning the competition.
Last season, with Friedel featured in just 11 out of 38 Premier League games, Tottenham finished fifth after spending most of the season in the top four.
Friedel, though, has been told the team will be spending money in an effort to reach Europe’s elite competition again. With a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $4.2 billion, owner Joe Lewis is one of the most secretive owners in the Premier League — in public, at least.
“After meeting on numerous times with a few of the board members, they are ambitious and they will try to strengthen the squad,” Friedel said. “We went out to the Bahamas (for an exhibition game in May) with Mr. Lewis, the owner, and he showed us exactly how ambitious he is for the club … and how much he wants us to win and be successful.”
Tottenham has started early on its transfer activity, signing 24-year-old Brazil midfielder Paulinho from Corinthians in the past week, while star forward Gareth Bale looks set to stay at White Hart Lane.
“The season should be very exciting for us. We look to be building and making our squad stronger and stronger,” Friedel said. “We are not a million miles away from reaching some of our goals. We also want to try to win some silverware in one of the cups.”
Once the 26-year-old Lloris was in place in November, Friedel’s appearances were largely limited to the FA Cup and Europa League.
“I knew that role was coming when I signed my contract (in December),” said Friedel, who plays alongside compatriot Clint Dempsey.
Having made the last of his 82 appearances for the U.S. in 2005, Friedel has been watching from afar as the national team chases a spot at the 2014 World Cup.
The team, under Jurgen Klinsmann, is on track to qualify for Brazil. In its six-team CONCACAF qualifying group, the U.S. is two points ahead of Costa Rica and five in front of Mexico with four games remaining. The top three teams qualify automatically.
“I have seen a team that went from being a little bit with their backs to the wall to now being in pole position and looking to qualify with ease,” Friedel said. “Whatever ideas and tactics (Klinsmann) is implementing are now working and they are now working very well.”
Might Friedel one day be running the national team?
“My mind is open to anything in the future,” he said. “But then my mind is strictly on playing still at this moment in time.”
For the next season at least.
“I’ll see how my body feels in January and we’ll go from there,” he said.