Today’s Premier League hero is Tottenham’s Brad Friedel, one of the most consistent and longest serving goalkeepers in the English game.
Friedel is one of the longest serving Premier League players since he joined Liverpool in 1997 and then went on to have stints at Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and is currently at Tottenham Hotspur. The American shot-stopper has made 476 appearances for Premier League clubs while he even managed to score a goal against Charlton during his time at Blackburn Rovers.
Friedel is the holder of the record amount of consecutive appearances in the Premier League with a whopping 310 consecutive performances. Friedel managed to become Aston Villa’s oldest ever player on February 1st 2011 and then became the oldest ever player to play in a competitive game for Tottenham on May 6th 2012.
Records aside, Friedel is recognised as the American goalkeeper that opened the gateway into the Premier League for other American goalkeepers that followed such as Kasey Keller, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Not only is Friedel recognised as one of the greatest North American players to play in the Premier League but he is also referred to as one of the most consistent players to ever play in English football.
Brad Friedel was born in Lakewood, Ohio on May 18th 1971. The 6ft 3in goalkeeper began his football career as a forward but eventually went on to play in goal for the UCLA Bruins who went on to win the NCAA Championship. This success brought plenty of attention to the talent of Friedel and he left college early to pursue a professional career in the sport.
Friedel attempted to sign for Nottingham Forest but was denied a work permit so he signed on to play for the United States as they prepared for the 1994 World Cup and pursued a club further abroad afterwards.
Friedel attempted to sign for Newcastle United but was again denied a work permit. This led to Friedel being loaned to Danish club Brondby from the USSF and was then snapped up by Turkish side Galatasary.
Friedel only made 30 appearances for Galatasary before heading back to the United States as he signed for Columbus Crew where he spent one season and was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Season.
Friedel was eventually granted a British work permit and he signed for Liverpool for a £1.7 million fee in 1997. The American goalkeeper impressed at the start of his Liverpool career but he only went on to manage 25 appearances for the club as competition arose between Friedel, David James and Sander Westerveld.
This led to a lack of games for the American towards the end of his stint at Anfield and other English clubs began to sniff around the shot-stopper.
Brad Friedel was allowed to leave Anfield on a free transfer and signed for Graeme Souness’ Blackburn Rovers side in November 2000. Blackburn were attempting to gain promotion from the First Division into the Premier League and signing a consistent keeper such as Friedel only helped towards that goal.
Friedel was outstanding in his first season and his consistent performances led to Blackburn returning to the Premier League. Friedel went on to have seven clean sheets in his first Premier League season with Blackburn and this form helped them finish 10th in the league in their first season back in the top flight.
Blackburn also managed to pick up the League Cup trophy by defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in early 2002, which became Friedel’s first piece of silverware in English football while he was also named Man of the Match in the same game. It just seemed to get better and better for Blackburn and Friedel as they finished an impressive 6th in the 2002-03 season while Friedel kept 15 clean sheets.
Friedel was named Blackburn Rovers’ Player of the Season at the end of the 2002-03 campaign, while he was also selected as part of the Premier League team of the season. Friedel’s highlight of the season came when he managed to score the first goal of his career from a corner against Charlton which made him the second goalkeeper to score in the Premier League after Peter Schmeichel in 2001.
Brad Friedel managed to keep up his consistency in the next two seasons but the momentum dropped at Blackburn as they finished 15th two seasons in a row. A huge improvement occurred in the 2005-06 season though as Friedel and Blackburn shot back up the table as they finished 6th in the league.
This was enough to convince Freidel to stay at the club and he signed a new contract with Blackburn in April 2006. Friedel proved his worth after signing his new contract and helped Blackburn consolidate their place in the top half of the league as they finished 10th and 7th during his final two seasons at the club.
Initially, Friedel had agreed to extend his stay at Blackburn Rovers in 2008 as he publicly stated,
“I am delighted to have extended the agreement. It was not a difficult decision to make. Blackburn Rovers is home to me. This is my club and I have a special affinity with it.”
Although, the goalkeeper made a huge U-turn as he asked the club to allow him to speak to Aston Villa after they made a bid and a fee of around £2.5 million was agreed between the two clubs not long after. Friedel played his first Premier League match for Aston Villa on August 17th 2008 in which Villa beat Manchester City 4–2 at home.
Friedel broke the record for continuous games played in the Premier League on November 30, 2008, after his 167th consecutive game finished in a 0–0 draw with Fulham. The American went on to make 13 clean sheets as Villa finished 6th in the league.
The 2009-10 season was one of consistency and progression for Friedel as he managed to keep 15 clean sheets as Villa finished 6th again. Villa dropped to 9th in the 2010-11 season but Friedel managed to reach a few landmarks as he became the oldest player to ever play for Villa at the age of 39 and then managed to reach his 250th consecutive appearance in the Premier League.
Friedel’s contract at Villa Park expired after the 2010-11 season and Tottenham Hotspur snapped him up on a two year deal on June 3rd 2011. On 22nd of August, Friedel made his first appearance for Tottenham in a game against Manchester United which meant he had continued his run of consecutive appearances.
Friedel became the oldest player to make an appearance in the Premier League in the 2011-12 season as he made 14 clean sheets and helped Tottenham finish 4th in the league. Friedel began the 2012-13 season as Tottenham’s number one even though French keeper Hugo Lloris had just arrived during the summer transfer window.
Friedel’s run of 310 consecutive Premier League games was ended on October 7th 2012 when he was named on the bench behind Lloris against former club Aston Villa. Tottenham ended the 2012-13 season in 5th position but it became clear that Lloris was their new first choice keeper.
That didn’t stop Friedel extending his stay at the London club. The 2013-14 season made it clear that Friedel wasn’t going to get much game time as Tottenham’s second choice keeper as he only made one start in the Premier League with Tottenham finishing 6th in the league.
This didn’t stop the keeper from extending his stay at White Hart Lane as on the 9th of June 2014 Friedel signed a one-year contract extension with Tottenham, which will keep him at the club until 2015. In addition, Friedel was given a great honour as he became a club ambassador, which will help focus on Tottenham’s presence in the United States.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena
Featured image By James Boyes (Flickr: Brighton v Spurs Amex Opening 30/7/11) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons