Tim Ream lets out an exasperated breath. The American centre-half looks to be agonising over how to begin the telling of his journey from the United States to Bolton three months ago when he transferred from the MLS to the Premier League, cancelling his honeymoon and leaving behind his comfortable lifestyle in New York.
"I don't mind admitting it was scary," he says. "Less than 24 hours after my wedding I got the phone call from Bolton, but it was within 12 hours of me leaving on a flight for my honeymoon. It was rough."
But playing in the Premier League had always been a dream of Ream's. After two stellar seasons with the New York Red Bulls and being nominated in the 2011 All-Star team, Ream was given permission to train with Bolton in December, catching the interest of manager Owen Coyle, which led to his transfer in January. It was the realisation of an ambition he had held since his early years playing in St Louis.
But that did not stop him feeling anxious rather than delighted when he picked up that phone. Not knowing if another opportunity would ever come along, he and his wife cancelled their honeymoon, flew to Bolton and began a new life. One that brought more money, more fame, more opportunity, but more struggles.
Ream says the transition on the pitch has been fairly smooth and painless. He was given his first start on 18 February against Millwall in the FA Cup, and then a Premier League encounter with Chelsea the following weekend. It was the transition off the field that brought the bulk of his troubles.
"There were many, many, many issues that arose," he says. "Every issue that could have arisen, did."
These feelings were particularly intense during his first two months when he was living in a hotel inside the stadium. His wife was mainly back in the States as she began moving the couple's belongings to Bolton.
It was an experience that Ream never wants to go through again. "I don't think I have had a Nando's since. I had it probably four or five times a week and then I started resorting to McDonald's. It was awful."
But the bigger picture for Ream and his club this season has been on the pitch, where Bolton are desperately fighting relegation. After their excellent win at Aston Villa in midweek, they head to Sunderland tomorrow still third from bottom but just one point behind both Queen's Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic, with a crucial game in hand.
For Ream, the whole relegation system, let alone fighting against the drop, is new. "It's an interesting dynamic coming from a league that doesn't have it," he says. "That's where the pressure comes in. You don't feel such pressure in the MLS."
While Ream signed a three-and-a-half year contract with Bolton, would he regret his decision to come to the Premier League if they were to be relegated this season? "No. I'm not one to second-guess and regret decisions. At the end of the day, you make a decision and you stick with it. And whether we do or don't get relegated, it doesn't matter. I'm here. I signed the contract. Obviously, I would like to stay up, but if we don't, we'll live with it."
Ream's personal struggles were put into perspective when his team-mate, Fabrice Muamba, collapsed on the pitch with a heart attack on 17 March. Asked how it affected him, he said: "I have goose bumps thinking about it. You never want to see that. It's scary. While this is a great job, it really makes you stop and think what is important. That's family and life. This is just a game, just a job. What matters is the stuff that's off the field and what you go home to every day."
So, if this really is just a job, then how did he feel about Bolton paying £2.5m for his services? "It felt strange to see that kind of money being transferred... it blows my mind really. Do I think I'm worth it? No, but that's the price that was paid, so I have to live up to that."
Ream has now made eight appearances for Bolton and lives with his wife in their own house, eating wide varieties of food that specifically omits Nando's and McDonald's, and their long-awaited honeymoon has been rescheduled for late June. "I'm there," he says. "I've had it with transitioning."Reuse content