Tim Ream believes that Fulham’s incredible eighteen game unbeaten run has been powered by a hard work on the training ground, a strong team ethic and an almost instinctive understanding of each other’s roles among Slavisa Jokanovic’s players.
The American defender, now considered as one of the first names on Jokanovic’s teamsheet, has given a wide-ranging interview to today’s Times where he discusses the confidence that is currently coursing through the Fulham squad, his thoughts on why American players are still seen as something close to second-class citizens when it comes to world football and how he enjoys life at Craven Cottage. As he admits, it has been quite a turnaround for the American defender – who thought he was likely to head back across the Atlantic after being told he was surplus to requirements at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Ream told the Times’ Alyson Rudd that much of Fulham’s pretty passing is the production both of a multitude of sessions down at Motspur Park and a unique understanding between the first-team players:
Everybody in the team knows what’s going to happen, we know where each other is going to be without having to look. We’ve developed that connection. It’s all on instinct. When you have to think about the way you’re playing, you’re probably not going to play well. At the moment I’m not thinking, it’s all instinct. We just know the guys are going to be where they should be.
It’s just the way we play. What does it matter? Just because they say we are attractive doesn’t mean you go out and get the three points. We’ve won some ugly games this year. We know when we’re not playing well and can dig in and get a result.
Because we keep the ball for long periods, there are times we can sit at the back and watch things develop. You try to see things three steps ahead, see things before they happen so I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m clairvoyant and can see when things are going to play out, but you can see when guys are positioned perfectly, good things are going to happen. You can definitely tell when a goal’s going to come.
The former Bolton centre back identifies the disappointing defeat to Sunderland back in December as a turning point in the season, with the Fulham players having frank discussions afterwards in the Stadium of Light dressing rooms. He also concedes that there may have been a far greater hangover from the side’s heartbreaking play-off semi-final defeat at the Madjeski Stadium last May.
We all looked at each other and said, ‘Well, that was embarrassing.’ Very embarrassing. That malaise of losing to Reading may have played a bigger part than we thought. We dug in and it’s been us against everyone else, this mentality of not getting beat.
Pressed by Rudd, Ream also opens up on the fact that American footballers are the victims of what he considers snobbery in the English game.
People in England think the Americans are going to impose themselves, bring their language, do their own things, bring their own things, when in reality it’s the exact opposite. I don’t say ‘soccer’ any more, I say, ‘football’. In the States when I’m talking to family or mates, I use English terms. I’ve heard it all; that Americans aren’t good enough, they’re not tough enough.
There is a preconceived notion that we don’t know what football is and don’t know how to play. But when I’m not playing and am in the stands I hear people shouting, ‘Just boot it, just kick it’. Yet people in this country think that’s what Americans do, but they’re just shouting out that that’s what they want players to do. Is there jealousy creeping in as well?