Brad Friedel was speaking at an initiative run by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, which uses the appeal of the Club and the power of football to help improve the health and wellbeing of people of all ages in its local community. Older people aged 85 and over are the fastest growing age group in Britain. The scheme, PHASE, which was attended by Brad and Carlo Cudicini, provides exercise classes and promotes social interaction through a range of social events and activities. The Club takes its role in the community very seriously and its players show their support for the work of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation on a weekly basis.
Why were you chosen for this event Brad?
I guess it is because myself and Carlo have a combined age of 78! Tottenham Hotspur do a tremendous amount of activities for the community, and this is another one, the players do a very good job at showing their faces though the community programmes and it was Carlo’s and my turn today.
How important are these schemes?
The best way to sum it up is, when we walk into a room you see how it brightens up some of the faces of the people here. The community programmes reach out to people on all walks of life and when Carlo and I walked into the room today there were a lot of smiles on faces, that’s the best way to sum it up really.
And it’s the nice side of being a footballer?
Yes, when we can go out and do things like this it definitely has the feel good factor.
Speaking of exercise, you are the longest serving goalkeeper in terms of successive matches, is it 300 now? How do you stay in shape?
There’s no secret, you have to eat right, take care of your body. For me personally, and it’s not for everybody, but I took on yoga when I was about 31, so about nine years ago. I started feeling a little wear and tear, especially flying across the ocean with international football and I started pulling some muscles. So I got involved in yoga through an old friend of mine who had gotten into it and I just continued it on from there and I’ve never felt better.
How often do you do it?
I do it twice a day. I do a little 30 minute segment in the morning then a 45 minute segment before I go to bed. Then on a Tuesday we have a yoga teacher coming into the Club, so I’ll do it with some of the players and staff that want to do it at the Club.
You‘ve introduced this to Tottenham, I don’t know how many players did it before, and even Harry has tried it!
He’s tried it once, you’d have to ask him if he liked it! I believe his wife does it and swears by it. I’m not sure if he swears by it, he might swear when he does it, but not by it.
What does it allow you to do that you couldn’t do before, does it stop injury?
It doesn’t stop it, I think it helps prevent it a little bit, but I think as goalkeeper flexibility is key, keeping your muscles supple, and it helps me do that. If your hip joints are flexible then it can help with the prevention of knee injuries, so I think that if you can prevent any long term injuries then you can carry on for a lot longer than outfield players can.
How supple are you? Can you do the splits?
Just about, I’m not incredibly bendy but I’m not bad for 40.
Seriously, how long do you think you can carry on playing at the highest level?
I have no idea, from about the age of 35 I would take things contract by contract and I would never sign one I didn’t think I could fulfil. I signed a three year contract at Villa when I was 37, then when I was 40 I signed a two-year contract with Tottenham and I plan in fulfilling that, and I’ll see what happens when I’m 42. At some stage I know the wheels are going to fall off, but while I still feel good I’m going to try and play as long as a I can.
Do you know the record holder in the Premier League for age for goalkeepers?
I’m going to guess John Burridge?
Yes, he was 43 years and 163 days.
Yeah…I’m not sure if I’ll get there, it’s not really a goal of mine to get there. I want to be able to play at a high level, I wouldn’t want to just play for the sake of playing and say that I’m up there with the oldest goalkeeper, that’s not really a goal of mine. I would never want to play unless I felt I could help the team.
You are playing at the highest level now and you’re playing in a side that most people think it’s the best Spurs side since the 60’s, if not ever. Is it as good a side as you’ve ever played in?
It’s up there. When I first signed with Liverpool the first season I was there we had a very, very good side that year, we weren’t far off winning the league that year. But it’s right up there, definitely. When I was deciding in the summer what I was going to do, and it was purely a football decision, when I looked at the squad, I knew that was the team I wanted to go for.
The thing is, once you’ve got a squad like this is that you want to keep them together don’t you. And that’s everyone, the coaches, the players, everybody. It would be a shame if it started to break up wouldn’t it.
It would be a shame, but I think all you had to do is look back at last summer and look what happened with Luka Modric, it was in all the papers every day but he ended up staying and he plays some tremendous football, what a great player he is. I don’t see us as needing to be a selling Club, and I think you have to really take your hat off to the board and the coaching staff for assembling this group of players.
Mr Levy does need a round of applause for what he’s done and it looks like he has another battle on his hands with the manager too, it needs to be together doesn’t it?
It’s a very difficult thing to balance your books and get a product on the field like we have, it’s a difficult thing to do and they’ve worked really hard at doing it. People really need to applaud them in their efforts in that, its fine having a group of players if you have endless amounts of cash, that’s’ one thing, but when you don’t and you want to run it like a business or if you don’t and you want to run it like a business, which is the prudent way of it all, I think people look at the way Tottenham do it and it is a very good sign and a very solid foundation here.
How important is the MLS to you, and what influence do you think David Beckham has had over there?
David Beckham’s had an incredible influence over there. In America you not only have to try and get a product on the field but you also have to do your things off the field with all the product placement and the marketing, that’s just how it is over there. And you couldn’t really get much bigger than David Beckham and they’ve done an incredible job in not only getting him, but then to keep him and to re-sign him again, it was a great coup for the league. To bring in other players like Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry only helps the league. If the league wasn’t in this state I would feel for US soccer. The owners have done a very good job at keeping that league running, because there was a stage, probably six or seven years ago, where people weren’t so sure it was going to survive. The owners got together again and they’re making sure that it is going to survive and that’s going to be the ultimate foundation, even for the national programmes, because you have to be able to develop players, you have to be able to develop them at younger ages and you have to able to get good coaches and the younger levels and the only way to do that is to have a professional league.
Would you ever consider going back and playing there, maybe finishing your career there?
Probably not playing there but I’d never say never. Seeing myself involved over there in some capacity? Yes, again I’d never say never in football.
Because whenever you go home, you’ve said in the past, everyone thinks you have an English accent, and here we all think you’ve got an American accent, so what is it?
It’s probably just right in the middle, I don’t know. When I go back home and I spend three or four weeks there then it goes back into the American I think.
Let’s talk finally about your career and some of your favourite moments, and the things that have happened to you. Do you have a favourite save? Have you ever through about that?
No, I’d like to think my favourite save would be in the next game, I’m very much a forward thinker in that respect. When I retire I might look back. I have favourite moments in my career, some of them not even associated with on the pitch. I consider my time with Galatasaray, being a younger kid from mid-west America, being able to be thrown into a Muslim culture, I found that remarkable and that was probably my favourite year of living.
Why did you find it remarkable?
Well it was an education, I met some tremendous people and I was able to learn a different culture and learn as much of the different languages as I could. It’s just an amazing city, Istanbul. I met some remarkable people, and as a personal learning experience it was probably my favourite year of my life and that doesn’t have anything to do with the football club, Galatasaray’s a massive football club, that was just as a learning experience. It was far better than any year at university, that one year alone taught me so much about life.
Can you win the league?
We’ll give it a go, we’re obviously third favourites right now, and I think when Harry does his interviews he’s saying it right. Is it impossible? No, but it would be difficult. We can only take it one game at a time, and in front of us is going to be Stevenage on Sunday, then after that it’s going to be our North London derby against Arsenal and that’s all we can really think about. We can’t think about where we’re going to be in five or six week’s time, we really have to take it one step at a time.
So what is your memory of meeting the ‘Anfield cat’ when you played against Liverpool?
Well I looked out and I saw that there was something on the pitch and then you see it’s a cat, and the last thing I was going to do was going to pick the thing up because if it slipped out of my hands or something then you have photographs of a goalkeeper dropping a cat! So I just decided to just stand there. It was bizarre! It’s my 19th or 20th season in professional football and I’ve never ever seen something like that. I don’t know where they left a door open for the cat to get in.
Well apparently it’s a stray, it’s got God-knows how many thousand followers on facebook now and they’re looking for an owner, would you be available?
No, not in my house no!
So what that the weirdest thing to stop a game for you?
It was just so surreal, I was just standing around and he just came and took a seat right in the goal mouth and just got up again. He was quite friendly.