photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Tim Ream was married all of 24 hours and on the brink of going on his honeymoon before he got a phone call that would alter his plans.
Getting ready to head to Tahiti with his wife, Ream received a call on Jan. 8 from Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle, who asked Ream to skip his honeymoon and fly to England instead. The conflicted Ream obliged, knowing that a trip there would likely result in a transfer from the New York Red Bulls.
It did, as Ream agreed to a three-and-a-half year deal with Bolton and had a work permit approved in the following weeks, ending his two-year stay with the Red Bulls.
"I look back on my two years and obviously not happy with the second year, very disappointed with that, but overall I've loved my time in New York," said Ream during a conference call on Friday morning. "The people that I've met, the media, all the people in the organization, the players, the coaching staff, I've enjoyed every minute of it. The fans have made it great. They were always welcoming and behind us 100 percent, and it's something I'll always remember and something I'll miss."
The move from the Red Bulls to the Wanderers may have taken just a couple of weeks to get finalized, but the conversations for it began at the end of last year.
"Going over to West Brom and Bolton in December, we had a couple of conversations, my agent and I, about possible loan deals and going over there just to train and kind of show what I was made of," said Ream. "With that, things really started picking up. West Brom wanted to take me on loan. Bolton were keen on taking me permanently and I think it was right around Christmas time when negotiations started to ramp up."
Ream is still waiting on the completion of some paperwork in order to suit up for Coyle, who told the U.S. men's national team centerback he had watched him closely 20 to 30 times on tape and in live games.
Coyle also told Ream he wants him to figure in the team's plans pronto.
"They want me as soon as possible," said Ream. "I'm actually pretty fit considering I had the three weeks off between the training and going back over there, so they want to integrate me into the team as quickly as possible.
The original plan was for Ream to be available for selection for Saturday's FA Cup match against Swansea City, but that is no longer a possibility as Ream is stil awaiting his visa.
Should he get it in the coming days, Ream could make his debut on Feb. 1 against Arsenal, which currently has New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry on loan.
The idea of making his Bolton debut against his now-former teammate is one that has Ream salivating.
"That would be one heck of a storyline," said Ream. "I'll be very honest, when this all started wrapping up and I saw that game on the schedule, it was something that I was aiming for just because of the headlines and being teammates here just a few weeks ago and now having to go up against him."
Ream might face a familiar foe in Henry, but there are still a lot of differences, on and off the field, that the former Saint Louis University centerback will need to adapt to in order to strive in arguably the world's toughest league.
Ream, however, feels he is prepared for the new challenges that lie ahead of him.
"The biggest transition on the field is no different than the transition I had to face going from college to playing here in New York. I think that's the physicality and the speed of play," said Ream. "Obviously I adapted pretty quickly my rookie year (in New York), but again it's another step up and I'll need to be in the gym every day and need to work on my fitness and work on my speed of thought."
Ream will also need to adjust to the type of pressure his new club will face for the remainder of this season. With the Red Bulls, Ream was part of a star-studded team that was eyeing a league title in MLS. With Bolton, he will be dealing with the hardships that come with a relegation battle.
"As a player you want to be put in pressure situations and you want to show you can handle the pressure," said Ream. "As a professional you want to perform in those pressure-packed situations. To have to fight basically for your life and stay up in the league is exciting and scary at the same time."
Far from exciting was Ream's second year as a professional. After a strong first season that nearly saw him claim the Rookie of the Year award in MLS, Ream struggled mightily.
Whether it was with the United States or with the Red Bulls, Ream had difficulty with opposing attackers and was prone to errors. Ream's passing, which is one of the focal points of his game, also suffered a bit.
Ream endured some tough outings for both his teams in 2011, but nothing was as ugly as when Red Bulls teammate Rafael Marquez called Ream out following a loss during the season. Marquez's comments were just the tipping point of a Red Bulls season filled with problems.
Ream insists, however, that last year's troubles did not come into play during his decision to join Bolton.
"The locker room had no play in it whatsoever," said Ream. "As much as it was a struggle last year in and out of the locker room, on the field, come playoff time we put it behind us. It had no factor in my decision to pursue this. It was more of wanting to become a better player and wanting to take that next step in that progression to be that player."
The next step in that progression is at Bolton, where fellow U.S. international Stuart Holden was thriving before a knee injury put him on the shelves.
Ream and Holden have talked about the club, and Holden even took Ream and his wife out for dinner one night to help them get accustomed to the new life they will have in England.
"Having him around will make the transition easier and I see how much he loves it there and how well he talks about the club and the people involved there," said Ream. "It wasn't the deciding factor but he's definitely eased my mind and helped the transition."