By Paul Brown
Michael Bradley hailed Brad Friedel as a trailblazer for USA stars - on the eve of what could be his record-breaking appearance against Manchester United.
Veteran ace Friedel would become the oldest-ever Villa player if he steps out at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening and Bradley is full of admiration for the goalkeeper's longevity and accomplishments in England.
Ernie 'Mush' Callaghan was 39 years and 257 days when he played against Grimsby Town in April 1947. Friedel will be two days older when Villa face Manchester United this evening.
Bradley hailed the incredible achievement in the making and insists Friedel has been an inspiration for the current crop of USA stars coming to play their football in the Barclays Premier League.
He said: "There's no question that Brad has been a trailblazer for young American players.
"The way he's come to Europe and made an incredible career for himself and played at big clubs and had big success, you have to have respect for that.
"He's still playing brilliantly too. It's been tremendous to see that level of commitment from him.
"He has taken care of himself, trained the right way and lived the right way. To watch that pay off with him still stepping on the field every week and perform at such a high level, that's fantastic. You certainly don't see that too often."
Manager Gerard Houllier echoed the words of his new midfield star, insisting Friedel is a "role model" for fellow Villa players.
He added: "He's a top class professional. He looks after himself and trains hard. People forget about that - the goalkeepers have to train hard. He does even more in terms of his yoga to keep himself fit.
"He loves the game too, which is very important. He has that desire and will to win.
"He's also a very reassuring figure in the dressing room, because he's consistent.
"He was good at Liverpool too. He was very unfortunate because I think before I came some promises were made to him which were not kept.
"Unfortunately at the time the work permit situation meant at the end of the year he had to go otherwise I would have kept him.
"But I think the experience and knowledge of the game have made him a very good goalkeeper."
Meanwhile, Bradley is ready to impose his all-action midfield style on Villa - just like Roy Keane did at this evening's opponents Manchester United.
Bradley admits to being a Keane fan as a kid, inspired by the central star's tenacity, will to win and heart for the fight.
The 23-year-old USA ace would love nothing more than to bring these influential qualities into Houllier's side - although tonight's Red Devils clash comes too soon for him to impress.
He said: "I am a midfielder who likes to give everything he has for the team.
"I can attack and defend and impose myself in the centre of the field. I will do whatever it takes to help the team be successful.
"When you look at football nowadays, to have midfielders who can get forward, get in the box and get goals, that's important too and I try to do that.
"I watched all sorts of games when I was younger and watched midfielders obviously.
"The one I looked up to was Roy Keane and the job he did at Manchester United.
"The way he was able to be the engine and heart of their team and help them be successful was something to aspire to."
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