Brian McBride is arguably the biggest cult hero that Fulham have ever had. So much so that he has his very own bar at Craven Cottage. Daniel Smith spoke to the former striker to learn more about his Fulham experience…
DS – I want to start with the story about how you met your wife. I believe it’s relevant to your career and why you didn’t opt to join Preston North End permanently during your first spell in England?
BM – I met my wife after having to fly back to the states having developed a blood clot while playing for Preston North End and took a knock in my bicep. I flew into Columbus where they were able to angioplasty and remove the clot. They then put me on blood thinners for a month. I met my wife two days later. Asked her out a day later, then was able to spend the next 30 days together before having to go back to Preston. I asked her to marry me later that summer. Funny story about that, is when David Moyes finally met Dina when he brought me back over to sign for Everton, he joked to Dina, “I finally get to meet the person who threw a wrench into bringing Brian over permanently to Preston North End…”
DS – You were effectively signed to replace Louis Saha. That was big shoes to fill, did you realise this at the time and how did you feel about the idea of replacing a 12million pound striker?
BM – Yes, I knew I was signed to replace Louis, but I also knew I was a different type of striker than him. So, it meant trying to adapt for whatever the club needed of me. I was never going to be the player that beats two on the dribble than rounds the keeper. I did however feel I could hold the ball up, relieve pressure and pick a pass, then find good spaces in the area and the guys around me were excellent at picking the pass out at the right moment.
DS – You seemed to have a lot more success playing in the away games up north. Any particular reason for that? They are normally the games that players from abroad struggle with.
BM – Not that I know of. I just enjoyed playing in all the different atmospheres.
DS – Have you got over the goal that never was vs Sunderland away? It must have been so frustrating taking the lead and bagging a goal only to have the game abandoned?! Furthermore, you arrived in sunshine, left in sunshine but played the match in the middle of a snow blizzard, has that ever happened to you before?
BM – Simple answer, NO! It would of taken me to double digits in the league.
DS – What were your honest thoughts at halftime vs Man City away having been taken off for Kamara. You must have known the scores elsewhere weren’t good so did you agree with the decision or were you mad inside?
BM – I completely understood the substitution. We needed something different. We couldn’t turn them around while I was in. There were only three players in the premier league that I didn’t feel I could constantly win balls in the air from. Micah Richards was one of them. Which meant we needed to find a through ball. But I never would of out run their back line. (The other two were Ledley King, and Tiny ( I forget his name, but played at Blackburn for a while and then Birmingham).
DS – How did the players celebrate after the Pompey game? Was there a big party or something like that?
BM – I think we all had a few drinks in the locker room. The single guys may have gone out together, but I spent it having a great meal at La Capana in Cobham with my wife.
DS – Which of the three managers that you played for at Fulham do you think got the best out of you and played you in the best system and why?
BM – I think Cookie got the most out of me. He had/has a great ability to keep everyone in the squad focused on getting better. He also would talk with each individual person. If someone felt wronged he would listen and he would own up to it if he thought he was wrong. Now if he felt he was right, he would also tell you. It created a great sense of accountability for everyone.
DS – What was Al Fayed really like and did you have much involvement with him?
BM – Mr. Al Fayed was a great man. One who always had a presence and I was fortunate to get to know him better my last year at the club. The amount of passion for the club, along with the respect each player and their family was always clear and admirable. But in that last year, I got to where I really felt there was a friendship not just with me and him, but also with my family and his. It completed the whole experience for my wife and I, making it truly feel like being apart of the club.
DS – Who were your closest friends at the club and who did you room with?
BM – Thankfully I got along with everyone at the club. I sat near the front of the bus and hung out with the medical staff quite a bit. Player wise, There was a bond and close friendship with the US guys. I roomed with Carlos the first year and then I think we got our own rooms from then on.
DS – What was the longest period you went without receiving a black eye?
BM – I have no idea. It had to be long. I mostly just took stitches and very rarely had black eyes.
DS – What was the standard routine when it came to international duty? How early after the last league match would you fly out and how soon would you typically get back for the next Fulham game etc. Was jet lag ever an issue on match days?
BM – We would fly out on the Sunday after our game and get back to Fulham the next day, sometime it meant flying all Thursday and getting in Friday morning and go directly to training. But that was rare. Oddly enough, I tended to have my better games when I hadn’t gotten much sleep. So much so, that Cookie learned of this and asked before big games if I hadn’t slept. Slightly hoping I would say I hadn’t.
DS – We’ve all heard of the keepers union, keepers sticking together and looking out for each other. Was there ever an American union? At one point we had yourself, Boca, Eddie Johnson and Deuce. Plus Keller towards the end. Did you all stick together or did you mingle with everyone else?
BM – We would mingle with everyone else, but at the same time we had a tight group. We would try to get together every month or two. That includes all the other American players around London. We even had a Karaoke night at my house with everyone and the wives. It was hilarious.
DS – Obviously it goes without saying that playing once for your country is a huge honour so to do it 95 times is amazing. But did part of you start to target 100 caps and do you feel there were matches you didn’t play that cost you the century?
BM – Its not anything I thought about then. I retired from the National team after the 2006 World Cup. I could’ve stayed on to play 5 more games, but I never wanted my career to be run by numbers. I wanted it to be about the teams I played on. Having retired now though, I wish I would have stayed on for 5 more games.
DS – How did you feel watching the team go on to finish 7th and then make the Europa League final after you’d left. Did you feel left out?
BM – I was so happy for the team and loved watching it. I didn’t feel left out, because I was and am a fan now. So it was pure enjoyment.
DS – You played with several good players during your Fulham career, if pushed to pick the very best of the lot, who would it be?
BM – Edwin Van Der Sar was the best player at the club while I was there.
DS – Is there a particular match whilst playing for Fulham that stands out as your favourite?
BM – My favorite game was the Birmingham game. Last home game for me at Craven Cottage and got a chance to walk out of the stadium with a good chance of staying up.
DS – Do you keep in touch with anyone from your Fulham days?
BM – Yes, I stayed in touch with quite a few after I left. MO, from the medical staff and Mark Maunders were probably the closest. I still talk with Ian Pearce from time to time. I have kept in touch with Roy and of course the USA guys.
DS – Finally Brian, pie or pasty – which filling?
BM – I wouldn’t know enough. I think I had one of each and I didn’t particularly care for either. Crazy I know!