American tradition builds goalkeepers, claims Hahnemann

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The Reading goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann believes that American is best when it comes to the art of shot-stopping. Hahnemann has been a major part of the Royals' smooth transition from the Championship to the Premiership and Steve Coppell's side, who are at West Ham on Sunday, are currently in seventh place following last week's spirited 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

The 34-year-old has not conceded a goal in League action in more than a year at one end of the Madejski Stadium, joking that he secretly boards it up with Plexiglass when no one is looking. Hahnemann has followed in the footsteps of a number of American international keepers who have thrived in the top flight, including Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard.

And he is convinced that growing up playing more traditional American sports helped him to make the grade between the sticks.

He said: "We have a lot of goalkeepers over here and there are a couple of reasons. We grew up playing basketball, American football and other sports where you need hand-eye co-ordination.

"And people in the States want to be goalies. It is a more respected position there than in a lot of other places in the world. You watch ice hockey in America and as soon as the game is over everyone goes up to congratulate the goalie. Over here it is like 'oh, he's just the goalie, he's not even a proper player'."

Hahnemann has two sons, Hunter, seven, and Austin, six, who were both born in the United States. But the goalkeeper revealed that their preferred "other" sport was quintessentially English - cricket.

He said: "I still call Seattle home but my boys don't any more. They call Reading home. They are into playing cricket in the back yard with the boys next door.

"I wasn't too sure what was going on at first but they grew up with those guys and that's all they want to do in the summer - that and football. We still get out the baseball once in a while and they smack that too."

Reading will kick off at Upton Park five points ahead of the Hammers, who are managed by ex-Royals boss Alan Pardew.

Pardew took Reading to the brink of the Premiership himself in 2003, when they were beaten by Wolves in the play-offs, but within a few weeks had upset the Madejski Stadium faithful by walking out on the club to take over at West Ham.

But while the away fans will be keen to boo their former manager, defender Ivar Ingimarsson is only interested in emulating Pardew's players, whose first season back in the top flight last term ended with an FA Cup final appearance, European football and a comfortable top 10 finish.

He said: "Seeing how well West Ham did last season has given us a lot of confidence.We hope we can emulate what they did."