When Brian McBride stalked from the pitch after the USA’s World Cup tie against Italy, it was with a nod of recognition that Fulham fans viewed their bloody but unbowed hero.
McBride had been viciously elbowed by Daniele de Rossi, resulting in dismissal for the Italian and a face full of claret for Fulham’s adored striker.
He completed the match before having three stitches inserted in the wound but for McBride it was all in a day’s work – a fact well known to his boss at Fulham, Chris Coleman.
“Sometimes when he comes off the pitch he’s in a real state – it looks like he’s been in a bar brawl with cuts and bruises everywhere,” said Coleman.
“But that’s the way he plays. He’s a formidable opponent who makes life very difficult for defenders.”
McBride arrived at Craven Cottage in January 2004 as a low-key signing, a rugged journeyman who was expected to add depth to Fulham’s squad.
But the American’s passion and ability made him the club’s number one striker and won the approval of supporters who appreciate his unrelenting commitment to the cause.
As the fans’ favourite McBride can do no wrong – they named him Fulham’s Player of the Year for last season – while in his manager’s eyes he is equally cherished.
“Brian is a terrific player and the fans absolutely love him. He’s a manager’s dream, he trains like a true professional and when he plays he gives everything,” says Coleman.
“He doesn’t really like the limelight, he’s a family man and he loves his football. He’s fantastic in the dressing room with the rest of the guys.
“I think he knows how much he’s appreciated at this club and he just gets on with his job.
“I remember playing against Brian when he was here on loan at Preston, when we were in the First Division.
“I saw him a few times when he was at Everton and I always liked the way he played. I knew what he’d bring to our team and he’s never disappointed us.
“What he’s given us is phenomenal. He scored on his debut against Tottenham and since then he’s never looked back.
“His attitude is first class, he’s one of the best team players I’ve ever witnessed.”
McBride is professionalism personified, prepared to play through the pain barrier and happy to fill any role in the team.
In an era when footballers have earned a reputation as over-indulged prima-donnas, the 34-year-old bucks the trend. He is a modest and unassuming character off the pitch and a warrior on it.
Plastic surgery on both cheeks – from his time at Columbus Crew – and the insertion of titanium plates to support facial tissues are testament to his battles with defenders.
But for all his combative energy when he leaves the dressing room, McBride’s private life is dominated by his family, consisting of wife Dina and daughters Ashley and Ella.
“I’ve always been driven and I still have lots of goals I want to accomplish but some years ago I decided that it wasn’t going to be at the cost of not having a life,” says McBride.
“When I leave Fulham’s training ground and arrive home I’ll get asked how training was and we’ll leave it there. It’s good to get away from it.”
McBride has a relentlessly positive outlook and this has been most evident in his fight against pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal blood clotting illness.
It was during recovery after being struck down by the illness for the first time that he met Dina.
“I believe strongly that God has a reason for everything. What could have been a really negative thing, having to stay home as I recovered, led to the most important event in my life,” he said.
Coleman declared last season that if he had 11 Brian McBrides, Fulham would be in safe hands but soon the Cottagers boss may have to say farewell to one of the club’s most loyal servants.
A one-year contract extension was agreed in January, taking him up to summer next year and it remains to be seen if he is able to fight on for another campaign after that.
But if McBride is fit, willing and still performing, Fulham will do everything in their power to keep a player who cost less than £1million but has given so much.