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Howard’s book accuses Friedel of trying to sabotage his Man United transfer, which Friedel denies

TimHowardBradFriedel Dual Photo


Tim Howard’s new autobiography figured to have some good nuggets in it, but one particular bombshell has already made waves, and has a fellow former U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper taking serious issue with Howard.

An excerpt from Howard’s new book revealed that, according to Howard, Brad Friedel attempted to block Howard’s transfer to Manchester United back in 2003. Howard’s book goes into detail about Friedel being asked to write a letter on Howard’s behalf as he appealed for a work permit, and that not only did Friedel not submit a letter, but he allegedly appealed to the UK work permit review board to reject Howard’s request for a work permit.

Friedel wasted no time refuting Howard’s account of things, stating clearly that he did not refuse to submit a letter on Howard’s behalf, but did pass on signing a pre-written letter he deemed to be full of exaggerations.

“I’m very surprised to find something of this nature in Tim’s book,” Friedel told ESPN FC. “I’ve done nothing to stand in anyone’s way of getting a work permit. I’ve never done anything negative toward a U.S. player.”

Friedel has demanded an apology from Howard for the accusations, and told ESPN FC he has considered filing suit, but would rather resolve the matter amicably.

Howard’s memoir, The Keeper, comes out on Monday.

What do you think of this story? Think it’s a case of Howard getting bad information, or do you think Friedel actually tried to sabotage Howard’s career?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I always thought Howard had a Hungarian passport through his mother, so he got his work permit that way. Why would he have to get recommendations for an exception for a work permit?

    • Hungary was “accessioned” into the EU only in 2004.

      Apparently Timmy has his dual US/Hungarian citizenship today and I guess that helps Everton with quotas and the like but that was apparently of no help back in 2003.

    • Dude. If you keep waiting for somebody else to do the lifting for you, it’ll never get done.

      But because I’m a good dude, I can tell you that this obviously related to the time Friedel was living with Donovan and Howard in a basement apartment in Munich during the failed WC 2006, that was covertly owned by Klinsmann, when he wasn’t sure he’d make it as a manager and was trying his hand as a landlord as a sort of side-gig. Timmy gave Friedel his part of the rent in cash, which Donovan was supposed to deliver but the check bounced I guess and JK pinned the whole thing on Donovan… this led to a pretty ugly household dispute and well… you know how that ended.

    • The co-writer is a woman named Ali Benjamin. She is a sometimes-journalist, sometimes-childrens author (there is actually a “young adults” version of the book, as well).

    • Really? Virtually EVERYONE who has ever played with Tim Howard says otherwise and raves about him as a teammate. This includes his teammates on USMNT, Everton, Man Utd (he was liked), MetroStars. However, seeing you have probably never played with him, you know better.

      I cannot speak with Friedel’s teammates in the UK, but he has some frayed relationships in the USMNT camp. The only guy who consistently brings him up and defends him in Erik Wynalda.

      • “The only guy who consistently brings him up and defends him in Erik Wynalda”

        Isn’t Wynalda renowned for his honesty and candor? That sounds like a very big recommendation. .

      • Wynalda is known to rub a lot of people the wrong way and whinge alot. Is he capable? Yes Does he have too high an opinion of himself? Yes and he lets everyone know.

        In my opinion, Wynalda is a guy that does not do well in a locker room when things are not going right. Very talented, but does not how to play well together with others.

      • I am as guilty of it as anyone, but sometimes I think all of this talk about how well people get along in the locker room is a bit overrated, and that we are all a bit naive if we hope that they are all big pals who get along great and play Scrabble on the weekends.

        Shaq and Kobe were not bosom buddies while winning titles with the Lakers. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did not speak a word to one another between 1932 and 1939, and yet the won 5 World Series in this period. Even the Beatles were constantly at each others’ throats while producing some of the greatest songs of the past century.

        Perhaps one of the best quote in this regard belongs to Frank Rikjaard. When asked about the diffrence between the Dutch, Italian, and English locker rooms he had been a part of, he said:

        “In a Dutch changing room, everyone thinks he knows best. In an Italian changing room everybody probably also thinks he knows best, but nobody dares to tell the manager. And in an English changing room, they just have a laugh”

        Looking at the NT performances of these countries, it’s easy to suggest that “just having a laugh” maybe isn’t always the best recipe.

      • Anthony,

        Everything you wrote may about Wynalda be true but it does not mean that he is not honest and candid about Friedel.

        Neither Eric nor Brad is as warm and fuzzy as Timmy but it does not mean that they are liars.

  2. Great points all around. But I have to admit – I love these book. I love the behind the scenes nature of them and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. Timmy’s side rings more true to me. BF has always come off as a bit of a prick. Look, he was bitter Man U didn’t want him. Understandable. But that was a low blow.

  3. This is petty and makes Tim Howard look small by throwing in some controversy to acquiesce to the publisher to sell more books. He should have cleared the air with Friedel privately and taken the high road in print. I think less of Howard then I did yesterday.

    • Petty, kind of like when Friedel decided to go on about how Landon took the easy way out by playing in MLS and say it was sponsorship and money driven. Now that is petty especially when Donovan had done absolutely nothing to Friedel, unlike this situation with Howard.

  4. Hopefully he buys red bull and rebrands the team and he becomes owner/coach. That would be on sportcenter from day one 🙂
    But in reality, he should have something on MLS, looks inside good stuff.

  5. The Brits seem to have a thing for soccer biography controversies. This is pretty standard over there and an attempt to drum up sales for the book presumably. Wouldn’t worry much about it.

  6. I for one think all this interest in personal drama is demeaning to men and manhood. It’s like fans are a pack of teenage girls lining up to take a side on some spat. If fans wouldn’t buy this crap perhaps footballers would shut up and play. My respect for Howard is diminished.

  7. What would Friedel have to gain by doing this? What authority would we have to block a transfer?

    And before this who wanted to read Howard’s book? Sounds like a cheap and rude pr stunt to grab some cash… Lame

    • I read the excerpt on the ESPN. Apparently, the Man Utd lawyers were the ones who later revealed to Timmy that Friedel actively tried to block the transfer. So you would have to say the Man Utd office or Tim is lying. Also keep in mind that this was 2002/2003 when he moved and the process was going through. This was the time that Friedel was dropped by Arena for Keller after he had a great World Cup and he had this great young buck nipping at his heels. He was probably thinking why should I do Arena and this kid a favor after Arena just screwed me over. Keep in mind, Friedel threw a hissy fit and left the team after Arena named Keller the number 1, so I can see this happening. This is an excerpt from the autobiography:

      “Still, there was no guarantee. Players are denied work permits all the time. Cobi Jones, one of the most accomplished American players, had been turned down……

      I needed character references from other players. Manchester United asked former U.S. captain John Harkes, the first American to play in the Premier League, and they asked Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel, among others. Most signed without question.

      However, Man U told us that Friedel had refused to submit a statement on my behalf.

      “You’re kidding me,” I said. Friedel was among what was then a handful of American players in the Premier League; his influence was huge. Having himself been denied several times, he understood better than anyone exactly what was at stake. Why wouldn’t he vouch for me?….

      Once, when Laura and I were walking home from Starbucks, we ran into Brad Friedel….
      “I’d like to come by and talk to you about what I did,” he said. He paused before adding, “You know, with regard to your work permit.”

      I knew exactly what he meant, of course. He was talking about his refusal to help me out with my work permit papers. I had also learned something else. The legal team at Manchester United — the ones who had originally applied for my papers — had already told me that Brad hadn’t merely refused to sign a statement on my behalf, he had actively tried to block my transfer. He’d written to the appeals committee suggesting that I shouldn’t be given a work permit at all….

      “Oh, and one other thing,” he said. He spoke casually, as if presenting it as an afterthought, “just so you know: Manchester United was interested in me at the same time. So, obviously, there was a real conflict of interest.”

    • It sounds to me like Friedel refused to sign the glowing recommendation and instead sent something directly that was unhelpful. Reading between the lines.

      FWIW, the Friedel Selfishness argument has easy support, he quit international play more than a decade ago even though he is still active and for a time while “retired” was deemed the best keeper in England.

      Ironically, that and Keller’s decay opened the door for Howard with the US.

      • Friedel is well within his rights not to sign something he doesn’t believe is true, however, he comes off as a jealous, petty prick.

        Recommendation letters are generally filled with exaggerations of the truth. Nothing new there. He knew, first hand, how hard it could be to get a big break like that as an American soccer player. Instead of saying, ‘Sure, how can I help?’ It seems like his thought process was, ‘Screw him. No one helped me like that.’ Like I said before, jealous petty prick.

      • If he was indeed in the frame for the Man U job himself, as the excerpt suggests, there is a big difference. It’s one thing to “hook a brother up” with a glowing recommendation for some random job you have no interest in, but another thing to ask a guy to directly sign-off on things he does not necessarily believe to be true in order to get him a job that he himself is seeking.

        The job in question was, at the time, perhaps the most prestigious and best paid GK job in England, if not the world. So yeah, it’s not unreasonable to expect the gloves to come off a bit for a prize like that.

      • Man Utd. had already decided to sign Howard. Maybe there was ‘interest’ (who knows how serious) in Friedel, but that ship had sailed. Its not like Fergie asked Friedel ‘should I sign Howard or you?’ No, they chose Howard and Friedel’s reaction appears to be one of jealousy that Timmy was getting a break more easily than he ever had.
        This is obviously all based off the small amount of info we have so far.

      • You can’t blame Friedel for not knowing this– he doesn’t have a seat in the Man U boardroom and only knows what his agent tells him. And given the crapshoot of work permits at that time (and now), he can hardly be blamed for not thinking that Howard to Man U was not a “done deal”. Timmy actually did not mee the standard at the time, and I don’t blame Brad for not wanting to shove him across the line, especially if it involved signing off on something he did not believe.

        But you’re right– we really don’t know much and we are both def speculating. As a side note, the commenter “Jim” below actually posted a great link to a story from 2004 that describes all of this. I guess it’s not quite the bombshell we had imagined.

  8. Ives or other journalists, can you actually track down the documents? These were submitted for work permits to the UK government. Let’s read them.

      • Man Utd didn’t have patience with a young goalkeeper and his mistakes, so they loaned him out. What happened to Howard in his first year was the same as De Gea, but they didn’t get rid of him as quickly as Howard.

        Today, De Gea is pretty decent.

      • I think the Van Der Sar becoming available had a lot to do with it. At the time, Ferguson had cycled through a number of keepers trying to find a suitable replacement for Peter Schmeichel. Experienced goalkeepers with strong leadership ability and elite talent are obviously in very short supply– at any given time, there really are only about 5 or fewer goalkeepers in the world who have truly “elite” keepers who have distanced themselves from from the “very good”. And their employers are usually very reluctant to sell. Guys like Buffon, Casillas, and Kahn simply don’t come on the market much, and Ferguson jumped at the chance to poach Van Der Sar from Fulham, having previously sought to sign while with Juventus.

      • Helium -3.

        Mr. doughnuts is right.

        Contrary to what you think, Man U. obviously had faith in Howard because they signed him to a new contract in 2005 and got rid of his competing keepers, Carroll and Felipe. Then Van De Sar became available and signed in June of 2005.

        The key is Man U. loaned him to Everton. If EVDS has been a bust then they get to bring Timmy back.

        At the time Van de Sar was a proven top flight keeper who had just won the Champion’s League with Ajax while Timmy was nowhere near what he eventually became. Van de Sar was a better keeper then and remained better than Timmy until he retired.

  9. Eh…. nothing much here.
    If I had to guess, I’d say both are likely speaking the truth as they know it. Friedel’s account rings as true…. would guess he didn’t want to sign a prewritten letter full of exaggerations, offered to write his own, to which Howard’s agent said… never mind. To which Howard’s agent then simply told him,”He refused…” To which Howard understandably with hurt feelings wondered…. wtf?

    • +1 Agreed. It’s easy enough to imagine a “reality” that accomodates both guys’ personal “truths”. These guys are professionals and competitors– it’s no surprise if they occasionally get into situations where they butt heads.

  10. Well well, I guess we were in need of some drama during this slow period of the USMNT. Hard to comment without knowing more. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I would say Friedel’s take seems more believable to me. Without knowing more, it just seems odd to me that Friedel would try to block a fellow American goal-keeper from playing in the EPL. Either way, I can’t wait for the back and forth that is coming.

  11. What a beatch. Do you really have to write about it. How about confronting Friedel face to face like a man?
    What compels these people to write books anyways? I want to watch them play. Their thoughts don’t interest me at all.

    • You bring up a really good point. What the hell is this sub-genre of books that footballers release where they basically tattle on everybody that ever slighted them. Is it just a nice cash grab at the end of a career where they’re required to put in some salacious detail? Because you’d think Howard would be above putting something like this in print.

      • It’s commonplace in English soccer.

        But yeah if I believes that you tried to sink my career you’d better believe I would call you out for it in my book.

      • In some ways, It makes the Klinsmann/LD rift look mature. At least they didn’t wait a decade and be weirdly passive aggressive. Those two clearly don’t understand one another and never will.

        This Howard thing just feels passive aggressive to me.

      • Well, yes…. it is basically a cash grab. You sit down with a professional writer at a coffee shop for a couple of hours, throw him a couple of nuggets,and he hands you a nice big check from the publisher. Though Timmy is a smarter and more articulate guy than most, it still wouldn’t shock me if he hadn’t even read the book.

    • Fine, their thoughts don’t interest you. But I find them interesting (and I’m not alone). I read Zlatan’s book and will read Timmy’s.

      Why does it bother you that some people are interested?

      • You ride the short bus to school, don’t you? Where did I said it bothers me that some people are interested in these books?

      • Bothers you enough to “beatch” about it here. Or you don’t understand the obvious implications of what you’re complaining about: what compels people to write these books is that there are people who are interested in reading these books.

      • “You ride the short bus to school, don’t you?”

        Really, so using special education students as a derogatory retort, is okay with you? That’s sad man.

    • It’s a Clinton “depends what is, is” thing. “Man U told us that Friedel had refused to submit a statement on my behalf.” They both actually agree that one version of how that could be read, is true. Friedel didn’t agree to sign and send the draft he was sent (“”Yes, I refused to sign that. We got the letter and said ‘We have to change this, because this isn’t true.'”). So it will stand up to a defamation suit, if need be, you watch.

      Now, you could also read that to mean, “any statement,” and Friedel is saying that interpretation is false. Which is fair enough. But what Howard said is true in terms of the first interpretation and if he feels kneecapped by Friedel who he expected more from, have at it.

      Friedel then denies sending a negative letter at the appeals stage, but this is the age of e-mail. How often do you type a letter and put it in the mail when an e-mail suffices. And then Howard gives a version of why Friedel suggested he did it, conflict of interest and essentially that he should have to work for it.

      • That second — and more damaging — accusation about sending a *negative* message has its origin in what the Man U lawyers told Howard. So it’s not a direct accusation, but it’s sloppy and careless repetition of other people’s claims. I would have expected better from Howard.

      • Look at my post just below. The negative communication is not a comment on howard but an argument that permit standards were being made easier for Howard. Man U apparently got Howard through then based on Sir Alex’s personally vouching for Howard.

        Friedel was the #1 in 2002, this happens in 2003, Friedel disappears from the Nats even though he was the #1 and has a long club career with success retires from Nats officially 2005.

        This is the retrospective Harkes/Wynalda for the last decade that explains why Friedel might have left early.

      • “This is the retrospective Harkes/Wynalda for the last decade that explains why Friedel might have left early.”

        How do you figure that?

        While the USMNT locker room is far from the idyllic place most like to think of as, the tension between Howard, Friedel and Keller seems par for the course. Keepers are very different from outfield players in that only one plays even if the others ones are equally good. If that one guy is going well the others will rarely have a shot at making their case.

        After 2002 supposedly Friedel tired of the travel and the ongoing competition with Keller. Seeing how well Friedel has done since his USMNT retirement it is hard to argue with his logic.

    • “Friedel insists–and Bramhall corroborates–that he contacted the PFA only to ask why
      work-permit standards had been so dramatically relaxed since he applied.”

      So, he in fact refused to sign the Howard recommendation — though he may have offered a watered down draft in return — and then he writes the PFA complaining work permit standards are being relaxed. That isn’t a rip on Howard per se but it’s also not greasing the skids.

      • That’s certainly an admission of making a negative commuinication, sufficient to confirm Howard’s accusation. The more I read about this, the less petty Howard looks. Freidel certainly didn’t have to sign a letter the he considered inaccurate, but it’s hard to imagine a reason, other than spite, for reaching out to the PFA to ask why standards had been relaxed.

      • Mr. Great,

        Okay, I’ll qualify what I wrote:

        In my view, the vast majority of the posters on SBNI hate Brad’s accent anyway. He is no where near as popular as Timmy since he retired a long time ago and is far less media and fan friendly..

        Most of these people and others are just dying waiting for Timmy’s take on JK and LD, a topic along with Jozy Altidore certain to ignite comments on SBI.


    • I’d definitely like to hear Howard’s take on JK and LD. Not only Howard’s though, but Clint Dempsey’s and Michael Bradley’s. I remember when Bob Bradley benched LD in the 2011 Gold Cup, he came on as a sub and assisted Clint on a goal. Clint’s celebration was giving LD credit as if sticking it to Bob and anyone who though LD didn’t deserve to start. Michael on the other hand, will probably never release a book until he fully retires, and even then I doubt it. He’s never been about the spotlight, but I know he has some fire in him and would love to hear his story.

      • I think Howard’s take might the most interesting because Howard said LD was if not the best, top 2 players on the roster just days before the cut.

      • Maybe you forgot.

        BB benched LD for disciplinary reasons. It was related to both LD and Clint getting back late to the USMNT from weddings for their relatives.

        I don’t recall what Clint’s discipline was or even if he was disciplined.

        As I recall LD was never particularly supportive of BB in his comments to the media after that while Dempsey was quite supportive of BB in the media after Bob got axed.

        So you will have to ask Clint what he really meant.

      • l’m pretty sure Clint was just happy he didn’t have Wondo jumping in front of him and sending it over the bar.

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