The Big Interview: Friedel on Guzan, Lambert and Petrov
It will be a strange sight to see Brad Friedel on the bench at Villa Park.
After all, he never, ever had the pleasure of sitting on it during three years of league action in claret and blue.
It will be weird for him too, I'm sure, to watch his former deputy Brad Guzan receive the applause of the crowd as he makes his way towards the Holte End just before kick-off.
But Friedel couldn't be happier - for two reasons.
First, Guzan is a class act. Second, Guzan is a top bloke too.
"When he first arrived, I spotted immediately that he had things you just couldn't coach - bravery and a base of power and strength," said Friedel.
"That was instilled in him so there wasn't a whole lot of pushing you had to do. He is a self-motivated fellow too. From what I have seen of Brad, I see a goalkeeper who can have many, many years ahead of him in the Premier League, which is great. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
"We saw immediately what a great player he was when he stepped through the doors at Bodymoor Heath.
"I don't think the management staff signed him to be a No.2 for his entire stay. They bought him to groom him to be No.1.
"We signed at the same sort of time. They tried to get him the transfer window before but the permit wasn't forthcoming. When we signed together, I was 37-years-old.
"They were almost signing me a stop-gap while they groomed Brad for the long-term. It's now really nice to see him getting the chance.
"I loved training with him every day. He's a really good guy. Like every goalkeeper, you want to play the game.
"But I think he realised that it's not the other goalkeepers who pick the team. It's the management who pick the team. He had no animosity towards me.
"He always offered me encouragement. He's a really good guy and he's a good team-mate to everybody, whether goalkeepers or outfield players.
"You ask anyone who's been with Brad in his time with Villa and they'll be glowing in their praise.
"Now is his time! He could be Villa's No.1 for over 10 years, absolutely. It's entirely up to him by way of his performances.
"If he keeps playing like he has done on the whole this season, he could be Villa's goalkeeper for a long, long time.
"When you're a goalkeeper that's all you can ask. You can only ask to be in the team if your level of performance is consistently high.
"He knows that Villa is going to be a club with very good goalkeepers so he has to keep his performances up. That's the same with any big club. It's definitely the case at Villa with Shay Given on the books."
Friedel is clearly an admirer of Guzan's qualities on the pitch and he believes it's that precious time between the sticks on matchday that will shape the 26-year-old's career going-forward.
He also thinks that setbacks like Sunday's 8-0 loss at Chelsea will toughen him up.
Friedel says "you just have to experience those bad moments" in order to come through the other side a better player.
"He can be one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League. He has all the attributes to be.
"The one thing he's short on is playing games. He has to go through a lot of experiences - good times and bad times. He needs to get to the point where he develops that thick skin of leather where you don't care what people think.
"He just needs to experience football at the highest level for a long period of time. Once he gets 34, 35 years under his belt, then we're really see how good he can be.
"He's still very young in goalkeeping terms. But he's got a very long career ahead of him.
"I think every time you play, you have some learning experiences on the pitch. You need to have them. There's no other way of getting those experiences than by playing in the games.
"When you make one or two mistakes, you learn from it. It doesn't matter where you are or where you play, it's the same for everyone, learning from those mistakes and going on from there."
Friedel thinks Villa should be delighted to have Guzan as their No.1 goalkeeper because he's a gem who will shine even brighter given time.
But he also believes Guzan should be thrilled to be playing in front of a crowd who have an "immense understanding" of the intricacies of the game.
He thinks that is also shown by the warm reception he himself receives when he returns to B6 with Tottenham.
Friedel thinks the supporters know in their heart of hearts that he gave his all for the club and only left because it was the right time to move on.
"I think, especially at clubs like Villa with a big tradition, the fans understand football," continued Friedel.
"They understand that Brad is out there doing his absolute best for the football club, week-in and week-out.
"They know that if he concedes a goal, he will be upset because he cares about the club. Fans know his reaction is not for show. He's a genuine person who really cares.
"He's a genuine competitor - fans pick up on that. I know the fans will be fully behind him.
"He's an honest, hard-working guy and they respect that. They will also respect the fact that he'd bide his time to become No.1. That shows his commitment.
"He'll have had other offers through the years to go elsewhere but he chose to stay at Villa and fight for his place.
"The reception I receive has always been good. This season, it will be great to come back. It's fantastic to see all the friendly faces.
"I think the fans appreciate that I signed a three-year contract and I played every league game in that period.
"When it came to it, Villa were doing a bit of a revamp and there was a very good offer on the table to come down to Tottenham. That's how it was.
"I never once pushed for it and never would I either. I would never disrespect the club in that manner.
"I left on incredibly amicable terms. I did my best for the club every single day - whether in games or in training. I gave my all for the club."
Friedel's allegiances will be with Tottenham this weekend, of course.
And he knows what a tough game his current side face, despite the heavy weekend loss for Villa at Stamford Bridge.
Friedel refuses to let that defeat cloud his assessment of Villa's hopes and aspirations long-term.
In fact he bristles with indignation at the question that's posed to him on the phone.
"Are you quietly confident about Villa long-term?" I ask.
"Quietly?" he utters immediately. "I am a bit more than quietly confident!
"At the start of the season, the players were getting used to things. But I have known Paul for a number of years. I know a lot of players who have worked with him in the past and they speak very highly of him.
"I have a firm belief in his way forward. He's putting his stamp on things and his style is really coming across.
"I think Paul will be an excellent manager for Villa for many years to come.
"I am glad to see things have settled down after that turbulent season last time out. Paul is just doing an excellent job in my opinion.
"He's going for a different style and different personnel. But it's looking good long-term."
Friedel looks set for a place on the sidelines on Boxing Day, with Hugo Lloris seemingly preferred at present in league games.
If he's not in the side, there's no doubt he'll be watching on eagerly from the bench before putting his hands together in the 19th minute for his good pal Stan Petrov.
Friedel admits he was devastated when Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia. But he's over-the-moon now that his former captain is recovering well.
The USA ace says he's been overwhelmed by the fan tribute during matches - and thinks it just goes to show why Villa are a top, top family club.
"I was in contact with Stan a lot when he was in hospital down in London," added Friedel.
"Stan was one of my very good friends when I was there. It was devastating news but at the tail end of that, it's fabulous news that he's now doing so well.
"He's got a long road ahead of him and I don't think any of us can understand fully what he has to go through.
"But Stan is such a strong character and a great guy, he will get through this. I am sure of that.
"Stan is one of the best people I have ever played with, putting football aside. That's Stan as a person.
"He's up there with the very best. He's had his fair share of ups and downs in football aswell. But one thing is for sure, he always comes out things shining.
"I don't think there's anyone you could find out there to say a bad thing about him. I really mean that.
"One of the things I really love to see is the 19th minute applause. You watch it on MOTD and the fans always get up and clap him. It's just fantastic.
"That's why Villa is such a good club. You're only as good as the collective - the staff, the players and the fans.
"It's one big family there. Everyone is together. Yes, Villa fans voice their opinions, like any other fans, but it's always for the betterment of the football club.
"They clap because they see it as their way of looking after Stan. That just shows what a great family club it is."
Make sure you snap up your half season tickets.
Go to full match coverage for Aston Villa 0 - 4 Tottenham (24th December 2012) >
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