Tuesday, September 4, 2012
A Chat with Geoff Cameron
By Ravi Ubha
These are good times for Geoff Cameron.
Less than two weeks after helping the U.S. win in Mexico for the first time, the 27-year-old made his debut in the Premier League for Stoke City and was named the Potters' man of the match following a 0-0 draw against Arsenal a week ago.
It could have all been so different; Cameron admitted he was worried the move to Stoke would never happen. He first needed the go-ahead from MLS before beginning the anxious wait for a work permit, and landing the latter is often not a straightforward experience.
But now that he’s settling in Stoke, living not too far from Manchester and Liverpool, Cameron is joined by fellow U.S. international Maurice Edu, part of the Rangers exodus. Also of intrigue is that Cameron might have ended up being teammates with Tim Howard at Everton.
ESPN.com caught up with Cameron on Friday, the day before rugged Stoke played to a 2-2 draw at Wigan.
Q: Geoff, what have the last two months been like for you?
A: Very hectic and stressful. Everything you can imagine. Dealing with the MLS wasn’t the best thing. Being in limbo for a couple of months was very, very stressful, because I didn’t know if I would be here or [in the U.S.]. Getting the deal done and coming here and training -- and then having some more red tape that I had to deal with concerning the visa -- it’s been hard to focus. I’m here to play football and that’s all I want to do. That was my focus.
Q: How worried were you, at any stage, that the deal wouldn’t be completed?
A: I was really worried because it’s one of those things like, you waited your whole life to do this, and your dreams are right there, and it can come down to people saying, "No, we’re not allowing you to get your work permit."
I think it was more stressful dealing with MLS because they had the ability to say "OK, well, we’re not going to sell you." They were controlling my aspirations and dreams of playing here, and that’s always tough because you leave your fate in someone else’s hands. Now I’m more in control of my destiny and contract. The player rights here are amazing.
Q: Was it as easy as, "A team in England wants me and I’m there?" Sometimes players don't want to make the move. How much apprehension, if any, did you have?
A: It’s one of those things I wanted to do my entire life. I’ve always wanted to be at this level. At the end of my career, if I'd stayed in MLS I would have questioned myself and thought, "Was I ever good enough to play over there?" Now it’s about trying to get myself prepared after coming back from a knee injury.
Q: How much did you know about Stoke City beforehand?
A: I knew a little bit. I saw them a few times, including when Peter [Crouch] scored that amazing goal against Manchester City [in March]. It’s a team that has a system and the fact it finished [two points off] the top 10 ... obviously that’s an accomplishment. Stoke is a team that’s established. At the same time, there was another team interested in getting me, but you had to deal with MLS.
Q: Which team?
A: It was Everton. But I’m happy here and glad to be here. Everything has worked out. It’s been a great ride so far for me.
Q: What are your early impressions of the club?
A: The system here is fantastic. The setup, the food, every single day after practice you have breakfast provided. You have a chef here with a kitchen and a cafeteria. It’s very, very professional. Just everything in general has been top-notch.
Q: How surprised were you that you started and then went the full distance against Arsenal?
A: I was surprised, to be honest. I was just hoping to be in the 18 [the 18-man squad]. But getting that start under my belt was cool. I’m walking out there and the fans applauding -- the crowd here is fantastic.
Q: What were your initial observations of the Premier League after playing against Arsenal? Is it what you had anticipated?
A: It was definitely what I expected. It was quicker, faster, guys are more physical. The game goes end to end. It’s a battle out there every game. But I’m used to that and getting stuck in for 90 minutes.
Q: How ready are you for England’s grueling schedule? You started against Swindon in the midweek League Cup game. [Note: Cameron then started against Wigan, his third game in a week.]
A: I think I’ll be alright. That’s when your days off, when you’re taking a rest, taking your fluids in, and you’re preparing yourself for the next game [are important]. It’s going to be a long road because I won’t really have an offseason -- I’m used to having the offseason in January and Christmastime. But I’d rather be playing at Christmastime anyway.
Q: You played in a holding role against Arsenal in midfield but in the center of defense against Mexico. What’s your preference?
A: I honestly just want to be on the pitch. I like center back, and for me with the national team, that’s my main position. But if I can play center midfield, or defensive midfield, I’m happy to do that, because I’ve played a good part of my career there.
Q: Have you had a chance to soak up the football atmosphere in England thus far, read the papers, watch football on television?
A: I’m definitely staying away from the papers [laughs]. On the telly, it’s football on every single day and minute. It’s the NFL, NBA, MLB over in the States. Here it’s just football and that’s pretty cool.
Q: How nice is it to come to England and have Maurice Edu, who has lived in the UK, on your team?
A: It’s nice to have him because he’s another American who played in Glasgow. As I say, he’s big-time. He’s proven himself. He’s played in the big games, he’s played in the World Cup. He’s established himself and is a pretty well-known player. I can ask him a bunch of questions and we’re teammates on the national team. Obviously, that makes the transition a bit easier. And he’s a funny guy.
Q: Which Americans did you talk to or consult with before you moved to England?
A: One-hundred percent with Clint [Dempsey] and Tim [Howard] and just all the guys who’ve played in Europe. They said to just be patient with the whole transfer situation and obviously with MLS because they’ve dealt with it before and know how it’s run. But they all said, "Once you get over here, you’ll be fine. Just get your feet wet and keep your head down and stay focused on working hard."
That’s what all those guys have done, and look at them, they’re pretty well-known players in the EPL.
Q: I guess you’re staying at a hotel at the moment?
A: Yeah. I was with Maurice yesterday and we were trying to look at flats close by to each other. Us Americans have to stick together. Maybe we’ll try to find a place near Tim Howard, out near Manchester but also close to Stoke, as well -- in between the two so it’s not too far to drive in every day to training or head north to experience the towns and cities, as well.
Q: One last question, the most important of all: Who has the longer throw? Is it Rory Delap, Ryan Shotton or you?
A: I honestly don’t know. Rory’s been injured a bit, but I have seen him whip one in and he definitely has a toss on him. Shotts has a big arm. Mo apparently said he does to, so we’ll have to see about that. If I’m in the game and I can throw it in the box, it’s cool. Obviously, it’s a weapon to have.