Jimmy Conrad is many things.
Major League Soccer legend. Former United States national team player. World Cup veteran. Budding media personality (check out his live show on KICKTV). All-around wacky guy.
And Newcastle United fan. Yes, Newcastle is Jimmy's club of choice in England. So we used Twitter to stalk Jimmy (@JimmyConrad, if you wanted to do the same) and then blackmailed him to answer a few questions about why he chose Newcastle, how to defend Shearer, and more.
A transcript of our email interview follows.
Why and how did you become a Newcastle fan?
When I was a much younger man, back in the mid-90s, the only games you could catch on TV here in the States were Manchester United games, which meant all of my bandwagon friends became obsessed with the Red Devils. And even though I'll admit to thinking that Eric Cantona was a great player, I couldn't bring myself to support the whole team. Fortunately, I caught a game between United and United from St. James' Park and I was blown away by the performance of Ferdinand and Ginola and Albert and Asprilla and the passionate crowd and the black-and-white strips and I made my decision. They were going to be my team in England, which made it even harder when United caught them at the end of the year to win the title. We had it all wrapped up! Or so I thought.
What's your take on the current state of the club?
When I was a player, the fans and media were always a lot more reactionary and emotional than we were on the field, because if we acted the same way, it would've taken up so much energy as a group to indulge in the highs and lows that it, ultimately, would've detracted from our performance and made things even worse. So, from my former player's perspective, which attempts to be devoid of emotion, when Newcastle finished fifth a few seasons ago, I didn't think we were that good and when we finished right above the relegation zone last season, I don't think we were that bad. We're something in the middle. From a reactionary fan's perspective, we're the best team that ever lived and I'm livid that we didn't sign another player or two in the transfer window after Kinnear made it clear he was intending to!
If you could have played with any Newcastle player other than Alan Shearer (since he's the obvious answer), who would it be? Why?
Philippe Albert, because I loved how he would just bomb forward with reckless abandon, which means I would've been the perfect partner for him because I like to stay at home and organize.
Have you been to a match at St. James' Park?
Sadly, I have not but when I do, it'll be for a Sunderland match. I only want to witness the very best atmosphere in the world when they're at their most emotional.
How would you have defended Shearer?
I'm not sure you could defend him straight up because of how strong he was, both physically and in the air, but you could defend everyone else around him. So if you could limit the service he got from the wings and keep him in front of you when he's winning second balls, etc., then you would put yourself in a good position to limit his influence. He would probably still find a way to score, though.
Do you think Newcastle has the potential to gain a large following in America?
I think it does but, as I touched upon earlier, America is full of bandwagon fans so until Newcastle starts winning trophies on a regular basis, then they'll never be as big as the clubs that spend the most money.