INTERVIEW: DOMINIC BLISS
Ahead of the United States’ visit to Craven Cottage for tomorrow’s international friendly against Colombia, we spoke to legendary centre-forward Brian McBride about his time at Fulham, the continuing growth of the game in America and the heritage of his old west London stomping ground…
The following interview appears in the official matchday programme for USA v Colombia, which you can buy here.
What were your first thoughts when you heard the USA were going to play at your old ground in Fulham?
I was so excited. It’s an awesome opportunity for the national team players, many of whom won’t have much experience of playing in a stadium like Craven Cottage. It’s a place with phenomenal character, in which you can feel the history.
It’s also an opportunity to introduce the stadium to some of the US fans, like the American Outlaws who will be travelling to support the team. So I was very happy, very excited to find out the news.
During your time at Fulham, they had several other American players on the books. Was there a growth in support for the club in the United States as a result of that?
I definitely think there was a momentum in support of Fulham because of all the American internationals who were at the club at the time. I remember seeing a little play on words somewhere that turned it into Fulhamerica.
I was really happy to be a part of that team, and once you fit into a place, you get to understand it more. When I first moved there, I never thought that I would have the ties and the feelings that I have for Fulham. I don’t think that was just particular to me, either, I think the whole atmosphere was great for the American guys who were making the move to Europe.
Even someone like Kasey Keller, who had been in Europe forever, said how much he enjoyed it at Fulham. There were so many good things, such as, from my standpoint, the family atmosphere, the fact that you could be dropped off from the coach about two blocks away and walk to the stadium with the fans. It was unique and it was great that we got the chance to understand what Fulham was.
Fulham were really establishing themselves as Premier League regulars when you arrived in 2004. Was it a good time to turn up at the Cottage?
I definitely came at a very exciting time for the club, which was certainly growing, and my job was to try and find a way in and to continue what they were doing at the time. You can see now that the ownership is offering real support to try and get it right and put Fulham back to where we want to be, in the Premier League.
Switching focus to the United States and the American public seemed to get right behind the national team during the World Cup in Brazil. The game has taken hold of the nation now, hasn’t it?
Soccer is continuing to grow and the US national team have a huge part to play in that, especially around World Cup tie. In America, you love your winners and you especially love your underdogs that win. Getting out of the group was a big task in Brazil, especially when Jozy Altidore went down with injury so early on, but it showed the commitment of the squad, as well as the vision that Jurgen Klinsmann had, that they were able to progress. They need to be proud of what they achieved.
Their opponents Colombia were one of the most entertaining teams at the World Cup…
Right. It should be a lot of fun. It should be a great experience and there will probably be a strong, supportive Colombian crowd there. I hope we see a lot of Americans there as well and that they get a feel for what Craven Cottage has to offer – the uniqueness of a stadium that includes a Grade 1 listed building within it and also the Thames running right next to it.
You’re still very much in touch with Fulham, aren’t you?
Yes. After Felix Magath was let go, I was part of the management selection committee, which brought me even closer to the club and it was something I definitely appreciated. When the club reached out to me, I was delighted to help out in any way I could.