We knew something was up. The story, as relayed in Tim Howard’s upcoming book, The Keeper, always sounded more like a miscommunication or a Manchester United tactic than something based in fact. In order to believe Brad Friedel had actually tried to keep Howard from transferring to United, you’d have to conceive of an established, well-respected player so invested in a purity of lineage for England’s American goalkeepers that he put significant effort into convincing others that Howard wasn’t good enough. If that doesn’t set off your bullshit detector, you need to upgrade to a new model.
Just think about how much effort it takes to do that. Even now, as I’m typing a post that’s supposed to be somewhat persuasive, I don’t actually care whether anyone’s moved. I just can’t muster the energy to think beyond my immediate needs: am I saying what I want; is it in English; can I hold off going to the bathroom long enough to post it. I can’t imagine how much energy it’d take to get anybody to care about that, let alone to write a letter that would convince an independent panel to agree with me on a totally unrelated manner. I can’t see Brad Friedel caring whether another man (to whom he probably felt some positive allegiance) didn’t deserve his job.
Thankfully, England’s Professional Footballers’ Association is saying that never happened. According to the organization’s web site, Friedel didn’t write a letter attempting to undermine Howard’s work permit appeal a decade ago.
At least, that’s what it seems like it’s saying. From its site:
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has been asked to confirm that we did not receive any correspondence from Brad Friedel with regard to denying Tim Howard a work permit …
PFA Chief Executive, Gordon Taylor OBE stated: “With regard to the appeal by Manchester United on behalf of Tim Howard, which was successful, we have been asked to confirm that the PFA did not receive any correspondence from Brad Friedel in opposition of Tim Howard’s work permit application …
“We hope this matter can now be resolved amicably.”
Hey PFA: Y’alll realize that neither that first sentence nor Taylor’s quote actually stays no letter was received, right? Regardless, the statement seems intent on clearing the air, and at least one person smarter than us believes this means to say the alleged letter attempting to block Howard’s move to England never existed.
That’s exactly what Friedel said yesterday while asking for an apology from Howard, but perhaps the then New York Red Bulls goalkeeper isn’t the one he should be asking for contrition. Howard may only be relaying what he heard. It seems unlikely he’d contrive a story that would put him in a decade worth of conflict with arguably the greatest goalkeeper in U.S. Soccer history. I mean, 50 percent of the time we see Tim Howard, he seems to be yelling at somebody, but we always think of that as a positive trait. Right?
Of course, in a somewhat similar “telephone” situation recently, I took the side of the accuser, not the accused. Seems only fair to note and highlight the obvious: It depends who you trust. Just as in that situation, where I found it difficult to believe Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan were pulling a story out of their asses, I find it hard to believe Howard’s doing the same. But whereas I found it totally possible, if rare, an official could say something indicting out of pure arrogance, I also find it plausible the management team at a highly competitive club would be frustrated by another team’s keeper refusing to sign a letter of endorsement.
If that frustration got twisted into the story Howard relays in his book, my incredulity meter wouldn’t budge. It wouldn’t even rank amongst the top 10,000 terrible things a management team’s ever done.