The only player in the current ‘Rovers Hall of Fame’ to have played for the club this century, Friedel is also the only foreign import in the Hall of Fame.
Signed by the club in November 2000 (yes you used to be able to sign players outside of the summer and January even then!) from Liverpool, his signing proved a key catalyst for Rovers’ return to the Premier League under Graeme Souness by the end of his debut season.
He then made the rest of his 290 appearances for the club at the top level, winning the Worthington Cup in 2002 and being named man of the match in that final against Tottenham Hotspur. He played in Europe in four seasons for the club and only missed four Premier League games in eight years.
Whilst at the club Friedel was named to the Premier League team of the year in 2002/3 and was Rovers’ Player of the Season in that same year. It was the season after that when Friedel became only the second goalscoring goalkeeper in Premier League history (after Peter Schmeichel) when he scored a last-minute equaliser against Charlton from a corner. Of course, as Rovers fans will know, this effort was in vain as Claus Jensen scored a winner to dent the significance of the goal.
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Friedel left the club in the summer of 2008, having asked to be able to speak to Aston Villa if they made a bid for him, which they did, tabling around £2.5m for the then 37-year-old. The club honoured that word and he left with the full respect of the club, but just two matches short of Terry Gennoe’s appearance record for Blackburn Rovers. He went on to play another six seasons in the Premier League, moving to Champions League contenders Tottenham Hotspur in 2011, playing every match for them as a 41-year-old in the 2011/12 season. Spurs signed Hugo Lloris in the 2012 summer window but Friedel initially kept his place until October, at this point he had played 310 consecutive Premier League games, which remains a record.
He eventually retired from playing at the end of the 2014-15 season and relocated to the United States. He coached the US Under 19 team to success in the CONCACAF Under 20 championships and then was appointed New England Revolution head coach. He was relieved of his duties as head coach after a poor run in May 2019.
What was Friedel’s legacy at the club?
I spoke to Luke Rewaj, season ticket holder at Ewood in the Blackburn End since 1994/95 about the legacy that Friedel left behind at the club:
“Whenever we sign a ‘keeper he is always compared to Friedel, Christian Walton being the latest example, and he helped to create some great memories whilst he was at the club”
What was it like to watch Friedel live?
Luke Rewaj again:
“You were confident with Friedel in goal that you had every chance in any game. He commanded his area and the backline really well and you could hear him shouting at the team from halfway up the Blackburn End!”
What was Friedel’s most legendary moment at Rovers?
“Probably a good few highlights from down the years but the one that sticks out in my mind is the ‘man of the match’ in the Worthington Cup final versus Spurs. He was immense!”
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