Don’t Ream it’s Over

Image: Fulham FC

Last season when Tim Ream picked up a shirt signed by his teammates in honour of his 250 club appearances, it felt like it might form part of a long goodbye, that could have culminated in the Summer of 2022…

It came towards the end of a campaign when Tim played virtually every minute and in Cairney’s absence captained Marco Silva’s swashbuckling side to the Championship title. It must’ve been particularly sweet for him after being virtually sidelined for the whole of the previous season by Scott Parker but the American has form for bouncing back from being written off. Instead he signed a one year extension, to play his part in the Premier League and seemingly postpone the farewell for another year. Well the long goodbye just got longer, as the evergreen Ream will stay in West London until at least May 2024.

Ream was born in St Louis in October 1987 and made his bow in college soccer before playing development football for Chicago Fire then signing pro for NewYork Red Bulls and quickly making a good impression in the MLS. Tim came to train with Bolton and West Brom in the American off season in 2011-12 and when the Trotters sold Gary Cahill to Chelsea he’d made a big enough impression for Bolton to sign him as his replacement. Life didn’t start so well in the North West and so started a pattern of highs and lows that seem to have defined his football career. Despite his best efforts the season ended in relegation ending Bolton’s 11 year stay in the Premier League Tim didn’t really establish himself in the Bolton side the following year but for the two Championship campaigns after that was a regular and was the club’s player of the year in both seasons.

Fulham had a disastrous campaign in their first season following relegation in 2014-15 so in the summer of 2015 director of football Mike Rigg changed our recruitment methodology by looking for players proven at Championship level. It led to the signing of Tom Cairney and after we were thwarted in efforts to sign Lewis Dunk we persuaded Bolton to part with Ream and also signed Richard Stearman from Wolves to bolster our defence.Although for a time we looked in for a better season than the one before the balance of the side wasn’t right. Kit Symons paid with his job and we tumbled down the table. Slavisa Jokanovic was eventually appointed as Kit’s replacement but with a transfer embargo now in place in the January window we ended up treading water that campaign content just to stay up. As a consequence it was hard for us to judge Tim that year but that was to change with Slav’s first full season.

2016-17 started slowly but with Slav making Cairney the fulcrum of the side we smoothly went through the gears and ended in a play off spot. We were sadly beaten by the dark arts of Reading but as fans we’d been entertained and given genuine hope for the future. The new possession based style suited Ream’s game and he and the team went from strength to strength the following season. A 23 game unbeaten run culminated in play off success this time and Ream iced his personal cake with the player of the year award. It was a measure of Ream’s calm and authoritative defending that he stood out amid the precocious Ryan Sessegnon, the middle three of McDonald, Johansen and Cairney, and the pyrotechnics of loanee Mitrovic.

I was genuinely hopeful that with the right additions and under Slav’s guidance we’d establish ourselves in the Premier League but the wheels came off very quickly. It didn’t help that Ream was injured at the season’s start. We went through a myriad of defensive partnerships but although Ream got back to be a regular our lack of defensive stability cost Slav and then Ranieri their jobs before inevitably relegation followed.

Scott Parker was given the task of getting us back out of the Championship but with Michael Hector being signed too late it was January before he could play and establish himself alongside Ream at the heart of the defence. Parker’s tactics meant we were under pressure far more than we should’ve been with the talent at our disposal but ultimately his methods worked with a memorable play off win against Brentford clinching promotion. Ream was again a consistent performer despite some keyboard warriors demanding he never play for us again following his red card at Man City in the FA Cup. If coming unstuck at the hands of Guardiola’s superstars is the yardstick by which you’re measured then Tim is in some pretty good company.

With a short Covid enforced close season Tim started that term in the line up but once Andersen and Tosin arrived Parker cast him aside as he did several other promotion winners. Ream is obviously a humble and grounded individual as evidenced by his contributions on Twitter last season and the way he conducted himself as an ambassador for the club amidst last season’s tragic events… However to remain professional when essentially you’ve been rejected would test any man and it’s a testament to Tim’s character that he remained so steadfast.

With Parker’s departure everyone had a clean slate under Marco Silva and it’s no surprise that with the style of football he wanted played, Tim’s abilities on the ball would be a perfect fit. It was as though we’d found a fresh bottle of 2018 Ream vintage and he was a defensive mainstay for a team getting so many attacking plaudits. Even so when he got his 250 games award at the end of the season many thought that was a great way to bring his Fulham career to an end. With Tim approaching his 35th birthday surely he’d be too old and slow for the Premier League went the argument.

Fast forward to this term though and we sit comfortably in the top half of the table and have pundits starting to sit up and take notice. Mitro is of course getting the headlines, as is the dominant Joao Palhinha, but calmly there in the background is Ream who has been ever present at the centre of defence and even performing with distinction as emergency left back at Forest. His reading of the game is as impeccable as ever and his anticipation of where the ball is going makes up for any lack of pace. The highest compliment I can pay him is that he reminds me of the peerless Bobby Moore who I was blessed enough to see in a Fulham shirt in the 1970’s.

Legend is a term that gets cheapened by overuse but in Timothy Michael Ream’s case I think it’s entirely fitting for what he’s done and, following the most recent contract extension, continues to do at Fulham.