Friday, May 22, 2009
Updated: May 27, 10:44 AM ET
Outtakes with Tim Howard
By Kenny Mayne
ESPN The Magazine
KM: It's been a big season: You've broken your club's record for clean sheets, and your team, Everton, is in the FA Cup final at the end of the month. So what's more important to you, succeeding in England or with the U.S. national team?
TH: It's a mix. For the national team, our goals are more long-term; the World Cup is a year away. Right now, my focus is with Everton and the FA Cup.
KM: Does an American playing in England call it football or soccer?
TH: Both. If I say soccer in England, people tease me. But when I'm in the U.S., it's soccer.
KM: When I visited the U.K., I was amazed by all the papers, the betting and the obsessive conversation. It's like football over here at the peak of the season.
TH: In America, people dismiss soccer as an afterthought. In the rest of the world, it's a religion. When I go to a Giants or Knicks game, the fans cheer. In England, they're rabid.
KM: Have you developed a bit of a British accent?
TH: Hopefully not too much.
KM: When you walk down the street in England, are you recognized instantly?
TH: Definitely. There's so much exposure.
KM: How much different is it than stopping at the Vince Lombardi Service Area in Jersey?
TH: I don't think any soccer player is recognized much in the States. It's actually a nice luxury, to be able in the off-season to come home and relax without being hounded.
KM: Now that you've played so much internationally, can you look at what the Brazilians do, or what the English do, and say, "Okay, this is what the U.S. team is missing"?
TH: It's tough to put your finger on it. We're getting better. We produce great athletes, and that translates into better soccer players. But in other parts of the world, kids -- even in urban areas -- play barefoot soccer from the time they can walk. In America, there are travel teams and team mothers and tournaments. It's an organization, and until we see it as a street game, we're never going to get where we need to be.
KM: Do you have a team mother in Everton?
TH: No, thank goodness. Growing up, though, I had my share of orange slices and hot chocolate.
KM: You've been in England for six years. Have you seen a lot of the sights? Have you looked at the experience as if you were on a tour? You know, "Hey, I'm going to Stonehenge today"?
TH: A bit, but I don't have a lot of time. Really, the States is where I vacation.
KM: Have you met the queen?
TH: I have not. We stayed at a hotel not too far from Buckingham Palace, but that's it.
KM: She hasn't attended any of your matches?
TH: I don't think she gets to too many Everton football matches.
KM: We talk a lot about Ohio State-Michigan or Yankees-Red Sox, but rivalries and loyalty don't get any more serious than in European football, right? You grow up a Chelsea guy or a Liverpool guy, and you never break from that.
TH: Particularly where we play. Everton vs. Liverpool -- that's pure hatred. As a player, you can't go anywhere and not get abuse if you're on the wrong team. On the road, I avoid downtown.
KM: Is the American accepted as part of that rivalry?
TH: Once you pull on the blue or red shirt, it's war. There are no innocent bystanders.