Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the American President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about

The two men were standing together in the doping control room. Tim Howard had played the game of his life. No goalkeeper had made as many saves in a World Cup match. The President of the United States would be sufficiently impressed to give him a call. He had lost.

Three of those saves had been from the man standing next to him in the bowels of Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova. Romelu Lukaku, his team-mate at Everton, was also trying to drink enough water to allow him to urinate. He had won.

“It was heartbreaking to lose but I was oddly happy for him,” says Howard, reflecting on the strange aftermath of the United States’ 2-1 defeat to Belgium. “He is not arrogant, he is a good person. We talked about our family not about the game.

“Your mind is racing – he was looking forward and I was looking back. We spoke a little bit about what was next. He said he had had some conversations with Roberto Martinez [Everton’s manager, to make his loan from Chelsea permanent] so I was encouraged by that.” Howard and Romelu Lukaku swap shirts at the end of the World Cup last-16 tie - won by Belgium Howard and Romelu Lukaku swap shirts at the end of the World Cup last-16 tie - won by Belgium

What was next for Howard was in its way more dramatic than the £28m deal that would enable Everton to call Lukaku their own. Most American Presidents have had some interest in sport – Gerald Ford played American football to championship-winning standard at Michigan; the senior George Bush might have made a career from baseball. However, Barack Obama seems to be the first to be fascinated by soccer. As Howard prepared to go home from Brazil, he was informed that the White House would like a word.

“You just try not to say anything stupid really,” he reflects. “It’s just ‘yes, sir’, ‘no sir’. He said he was proud of us and the team effort and said he was on the edge of his seat. It was cool that he was so excited.” Howard is reminded that Obama did not call the United States team four years before when they exited the World Cup rather less heroically. “He might have tried but you know the connections to South Africa...” came the reply, laced with a smile.

In truth, Howard seems rather embarrassed by all the fuss. “It’s crazy,” he said. “You know Americans; we celebrate anything, really. So although football is not huge, they like to root for American teams and we had a lot of sports fans behind us.

“But, you know what? If we had a football game now, they probably wouldn’t watch – but it was the World Cup, it was the US and it was exciting.

“I’m an old dog [he is 35]. I don’t get too excited. In 2010 we lost in the round of 16 and in 2014 we lost in the round of 16. We were pooh-poohed then and we are celebrated now but we still lost in the round of 16 so it’s a little bit lost on me.”

It is only in recent tournaments that American participation has been regarded as having something other than curiosity value. However, with the ceaseless influx of foreign footballers into the Premier League continuing to erode the English game and given the vast resources across the Atlantic, the chances must be that the United States will win a World Cup before England repeat the fleeting triumphs of 1966.

“We were close to getting to the quarter-final in Brazil but we didn’t,” says Howard. “There is still a long way to go. Winning a World Cup is next to impossible. Every four years you get two weeks to play perfectly. If you have one 10-minute spell in four years where it doesn’t go right, you don’t win the World Cup.” Romelu Lukaku is presented by Roberto Martinez as an Everton player following his £28m move Lukaku has now joined permanently for £28m

The focus now is on Everton winning against Arsenal this evening. The 3-0 victory at Goodison Park in April was the most complete performance of their season and in its aftermath it seemed likely that Martinez would fulfil his pledge to the Everton owner, Bill Kenwright, to secure Champions League football at the first time of asking. Lukaku, stationed on the right, ruthlessly to target Nacho Monreal, who had been employed as cover for the injured Kieran Gibbs, made the first and scored the second.

However, Everton did not reach the Champions League and you wonder if the chance will come again. Manchester United will surely never again be in the disarray they were under David Moyes, Arsenal are now spending the money the Emirates Stadium makes them while Tottenham have deeper resources than Everton. Most of the money Kenwright authorised was to secure Lukaku and Gareth Barry – who had been on loan last season. Some £30m was spent to keep players who were already at Goodsion.

“The money speaks for itself,” says Howard. “I don’t think it can be downplayed. Getting Romelu was a huge thing for us. He fits the system; he is young, hungry, as strong as an ox and a good finisher. He was someone we needed, whether he was here last season or not.

“Gareth Barry is the same. Other clubs have been spending ridiculously and we have still managed to find a way. Now we are doing it with style and with better players.”

When Howard talked about the Arsenal game, he had spoken of “making it difficult for them”. In the past, Everton “making it difficult” for Arsenal would have involved aggressively getting in their faces, allowing them no time or space. In April, they made it difficult for Arsenal by out-passing them. Even Arsenal’s manager, Arsène Wenger, admitted they had been outplayed.

When Martinez replaced Moyes last summer, it was a brief time of anxiety and reflection. “You are always apprehensive when a new manager comes in, especially because we had success,” Howard says.

“When David Moyes left it wasn’t because the team was in turmoil. When you are losing every other game and the manager gets sacked, you think: ‘Thank God, someone new is coming in’. It wasn’t like that at all. We were losing stability and respect and you don’t know how that is going to be replaced.” Roberto Martinez and David Moyes on the sidelines during Everton's 2-0 win over Manchester United Roberto Martinez has done a fantastic job since replacing David Moyes

Howard, who this week announced he would be taking a break from the national team, has already thought about how he will replace football when the four-year contract he signed with Everton last season expires. His performances in Brazil brought him an advertising deal with Marriott hotels; his intricately tattooed body has been employed by anti-fur campaigners to push the message that skin looks better on its original owner. He has spoken out for Tourette’s syndrome, a condition from which he has suffered since boyhood. He has commentated for NBC. In retirement, Howard will not be short of work but he will welcome some anonymity.

“I want to do a lot of things in my community; get out of the public eye for a while and just be normal,” he said. “There is no privacy in our culture any more so I will just have to carve that out for myself. You get your 15 minutes of fame, I hear, and I’ve had 14. The clock’s ticking.”

--

Tim Howard fact file

Born 6 March 1979, New Jersey

Playing career

1997 North Jersey Imperials

1998-2003 MetroStars

1998 MLS Pro-40 (loan)

2003-07 Manchester United

2006- Everton (initially a loan)

International career

104 caps for the United States

- Saved seven penalties and scored once in 348 Everton games – against Bolton, 2012.

- Played in two World Cups and broke record for saves (15) against Belgium this year.

Suggested Topics
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss