By KEVIN KOCZWARA
There is no doubt in Tim Howard’s mind who will be starting in goal for Everton this year and it will be him, despite the signing of 23-year-old goalkeeper Joel Robles from Wigan by Roberto Martinez this summer.
Robles was on of Martinez’s first signings since taking over at Goodison Park for David Moyes, who departed for Manchester United. The Spanish goalkeeper helped Martinez’s Wigan side win the FA Cup last year while on loan from Atletico Madrid.
“I don’t think that’s ever been in question. I have never asked for assurances (about my status). I know where I stand. I think my performances over the last 450 games have merited my place where I am right now,” said Howard on Thursday during a conference call for NBC’s launch of its English Premier League Coverage. “Unless I have been asleep for a few months and forgotten something, I think all is pretty well in my camp.”
Howard and Everton open up their EPL season on Aug. 17 at Norwich City.
Here are some more of Howard’s thoughts from Thursday’s interview:
FANS HUNGRY FOR EPL ON NBC
No longer will people have to wait for tape-delayed games or have to search the many abysses of the Internet for an EPL game stream that works. NBC’s complete coverage of the EPL means fans will get a chance to watch all the action live either on television or NBC’s app, and Everton and U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard thinks the kind of coverage NBC is bringing to the U.S. has been needed for sometime.
“I think the demand in and the American sports fan is so hungry for soccer now that the coverage NBC is going to present is needed and been needed for a while because I think everyone wants to watch the Premier League,” said Howard in a conference call on Thursday. “Even other athletes in other sports are watching Premier League soccer just because it is so exciting, there are so many big names and the games are high tempo. ”
One player of particular interest in the EPL this year is Howard’s U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore.
Altidore signed with Sunderland earlier this summer after two successful seasons with AZ in the Dutch first division. Altidore has had a few stop and starts on his European journey — the Hull City loan in 2009-10 and not being able to break into Villareal’s squad — but the forward found solid footing and racked up th goals in the Netherlands. That form lead to a recall to the USMNT by Jurgen Klinsmann, where the 23-year old was able to carry that form over to the national team.
The performances for the USMNT and AZ were enough to feel Sunderland to snap him up on a (find figure) transfer and bring him into Paolo Di Canio’s revamping project, where Howard believes Altidore will do well and continue to score goals, which is important in a season leading up to the World Cup.
“Strikers, that’s what they get paid to do, bang goals and get on hot streaks,” said Howard. “And I think [Altidore] will do well in the Premier League. He’s a big boy, he’s got good pace, he likes to get in front of goal and finish and he’s strong enough, particularly in the Premier League, to hold balls up and bring the team into play.
“I don’t think he’ll have any problems at Sunderland,” Howard continued. “In fact, I think he’ll do really well. Hopefully he doesn’t do great against Everton, but the rest of the season would be good for him to keep up that form because heading into the World Cup he’s our moneymaker; he’s a guy we have to ride all the way, so I look forward to him having a great year.”
Howard’s Everton side face-off with Altidore and Sunderland for the first time in the Premier League the day after Christmas, on the English holiday Boxing Day.
HOWARD DISCUSSES GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY
The Premier League will institute goal line technology this year in the hopes of helping referees and linesmen determine when the ball crosses the line. Instead of having a referee 20-30 yards away try and determine if the ball crossed the line with only the help of a linesman, and screaming fans and players, technology is being brought in to solve any questions that may come up when the ball gets close to crossing the goal line, and Howard says he’s looking forward to the change.
“It’s one of those things, from an explanation that we got from the referees, that it’s such a simple tool and you start to wonder why it hasn’t been used before,” said Howard. “I think it will be good. When you look at how many examples of how the goal line technology can be used, it’s so difficult for the referees to make that call from so far away, both the linesman and the referee, so the fact that they will have help is great.”
But Howard does admit even the use of technology won’t stop him from screaming at a referee over a call. It’s just the fiery goalkeeper’s nature and it won’t stop with added help.
“If it gets called a goal I will still be arguing it anyway,” said Howard. “But that’s just me.”