America has produced some heroes in the past; Chuck Norris, Bruce Springstein, Mr T and Hulk Hogan are all prime examples. But, to Spurs fans, none of them compare to their latest and greatest American Hero, summer recruit and Premier League veteran Brad Friedel. The 40-year-old signed on a free over the summer and, despite many of the Spurs faithful remaining sceptical of his arrival back in July, the former Blackburn Rovers, Liverpoool and Aston Villa shot-stopper has more or less won over his critics with a series of fine performances in goal this season.
In recent years, Spurs have fielded two excellent goalkeepers prior to Friedel’s time, in the form of both Paul Robinson and Heurelho Gomes. Both were excellent shot-stoppers but, ultimately, the reason behind their demise can be attributed to the duo failing to adhere to the most basic of goalkeeping requirements. In all fairness to Robinson, prior to the mistake in Croatia, he was one the leagues stand-out performers, often winning points for Spurs single-handedly. However, the pressure from media and fans a like meant he was constantly being scrutinised for any mistake he made and, as a result, saw his performances drop towards the end of his time at White Hart Lane.
Now performing admirably with Blackburn Rovers, many have called for the former England number one to be Friedel’s replacement once the American retires in the inevitable future. Robinson, following his move to Ewood Park, was replaced by Gomes, who signed with a big reputation across Europe as being one of the games finest shot-stoppers, keeping out a number of efforts other ‘keepers normally wouldn’t. But, despite a high figure of worldly saves, it was the basic mistakes that saw the Brazilian criticised. Making some exceedingly high errors, leading the Spurs dropping points through some unbelievably sloppy goalkeeping attributed to his ultimate down-fall as Spurs’ number one.
Still on the books with North London side, Gomes is no longer considered Redknapp’s number one both in the league or Europe, both Friedel and Carlo Cudicini respectively preferred by the Spurs boss in either competition. Third choice and not looking like he will work his way up the pecking order, it seems more than likely the the Brazilian will be leaving in January or, at the very latest, next summer.
And while Cudicini is performing admirably when called upon, the number one spot is held by Friedel and the American doesn’t look like being usurped from his role anytime soon. His arrived has helped improve a once shaky Spurs defence and with fans previously biting their nails whenever the ball was hoofed towards the box, a new calming aura appears to have washed over the fans.
His stability and experience has been pivotal to the recent unbeaten streak, proving imperative and, bar the Kaboul own goal, impenetrable in the recent 3-1 win over Fulham. A minority of the fans questioned his reliability after conceding eight goals in the opening two Premiership games this year but the worries appear to have vanished, evidenced by his man of the match performance at the weekend.
Spurs have been desperately searching for a ‘keeper of his stature frantically in the past few years. Having him starting has seen the blood pressure of a few fans drop frantically and the back-four, with Friedel behind them, look far more confident with him between the sticks. The Premiership veteran admits yoga has been key to his continuously impressive form and at the age of 40, throwing himself around the net like a player half his age, appears to be working. He even admitted that with age, the reflexes are the first to go, both as an out-field player and as a goalkeeper, but, like a fine wine, Friedel appears to be getting better with each passing day.
It is a shame that Spurs couldn’t have signed him a few years ago and having signed a two-year-contract in July, many wouldn’t begrudge Friedel if he were to retire from the game when his deal expires in 2013. Nonetheless, until the inevitable happens, his presence amongst the back four is a calming one, both to the players and fans.