Think Rovers and the adjectives that flow are tough, uncompromising, physical, ugly, and effective. Part of the rorschach was a unyielding defense whose fail safe option at the back was Brad Friedel. I am sure that there are thousands of fans who feel a bit choked up at Friedel’s departure for Villa which opened up once Paul Robinson was signed up by Paul Ince.
Peter Garrett like, Friedel’s 6′ 4″ frame was an unshakeable and umistakable visage at Rovers for the last 8 seasons. I seriously think that Friedel counts for 80% of the few warm fuzzies left in the UK for the USA in these anti Bush days. See Pew polls >>
During his time and because of him in large part, Rovers made the transition to the Premiership in his 2001 inaugural season. The men from the North West gleefully stuck it to clubs taking themselves too seriously even as they cemented their place in the Premiership. Friedel’s lightning reflexes, penalty saving instincts, and leadership at the back became a trademark.
It all counted for some unforgettable moments for Rovers fans. As an Arsenal fan, I remember the FA Cup fifth round match against us last year as Friedel kept the Gunners at bay with a wondrous double save. To my chagrin, the match ended in a draw with Rovers taking it to the next leg. This year, April 19th, 2008, he kept swatting aside Man Utd’s attack as they circled around goal like sharks tasting blood and it took a 88th minute Tevez strike to breach the citadel. Thanks to that equalizing goal, Man U kept a crucial 3 point lead over Chelsea. Later, a relieved Carlos Queiroz praised Friedel’s performance.
And who can forget his match against Spurs when they won the 2002 League Cup final, their first in 72 years. Friedel was at his best. This is what Paul Doyle had to say in his six great goal keeping displays of recent years.
“You could say this was the match in which Brad Friedel repaid his transfer fee … if it weren’t for the crazy fact that he came from Liverpol for free. Graeme Souness, then, at least made one inspired signing in his long and ludicrous managerial career.”
And in another memorable moment, he scored his only goal against against Charlton in 2004, a dextrous piece of opportunism that would have made Gary Lineker proud.
I have never seen a drop off in Friedel’s intensity and his willingness to give it his all in the years that he has played for Rovers. 287 matches started, most club appearances in the Premiership with 172 matches, a selection to the 2002-03 Premiership all team for keeping 15 clean sheets and leading them to a 6th place finish, good for an UEFA spot.
Friedel’s brilliant goal against the Addicks >>
Friedel two times Arsenal >>
Fare thee well at Villa but ye shall be remembered fondly at Rovers.