Thinking Outside the Box by Brad Friedel
Release date: 23rd May, 2009
Our Price: £13.29
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Anyone picking up Brad Friedel's recently-published book in the hope of reading much of the usual muck spread around in autobiographies regarding former teammates and managers is in for a shock.
Friedel doesn't muck-rake, nor does he embark on a predictable journey - regurgitating matches with the benefit of rose-tinted hindsight, peppering his narrative with well-worn goalkeeping tips and details of how fantastic the pay is in England's top flight and where he goes on holiday with his grandchildren. Blah, blah, blah.
There are far too many football autobiographies like this, but Friedel's is different. Crazy goalie he ain't - there are not too many 'keepers who have won a part scholarship to UCLA (where he read French and the history of the Ottoman Empire), though he abandoned his degree course after being offered a trial at Nottingham Forest.
Friedel does give us some background: he has always been a natural goalkeeper who, while at university, was offered the opportunity to play for the United States' under-21 side as they sought qualification to the Barcelona Olympics. He returned to UCLA the same year (1992) where he was voted US college player of the year, at which point Forest offered him a trial. It lasted ten days; the club was impressed enough to offer a lucrative contract subject to him gaining a work permit. A month later, his application was refused.
Friedel returned to the States where Newcastle's Kevin Keegan tried signing him for ¬£600,000, but again, his work permit was refused despite a subsequent appeal by the Tyneside club.
As restrictions were not as tight in Denmark, Friedel gained a European foothold at Brondby and latterly at Galatasaray in Turkey (his recollection of beating Fenerbache in the Turkish Cup final is breathtaking), after which he finally hit the big time and signed for Liverpool.
It was the start of a frustrating period and Friedel's first exposure to player power run wild. Unable to command a regular first-team place and ignored by Anfield number one David James, who refused to speak to him, the American took a 60% pay cut and signed for Blackburn, then occupying a berth in English football's second tier. This unusual decision provides an insight into Friedel's thought process, which is also responsible for his book's title.
By thinking outside of the box, Friedel turned his back on a very lucrative Anfield contract in favour of Ewood Park, only to subsequently establish himself as one of the Premier League's most consistent goalkeepers. He's prepared to take a long view, something which he believes comes from being a 'keeper as it provides such green-clad folk with a 'unique perspective'.
There are no grey areas to goalkeeping, says Friedel: "you have a physical job which you can do well only by paying attention to your mental well-being√ĖTo work well in the box, I believe you have to be able to think outside the box."
'Fascinating' is an over-used description of sporting tomes, but in Friedel's case, it is entirely applicable - assuming you're not on the look-out for muck-raking.
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