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Brad Friedel is Villa's record-breaker

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Villa's trip to face Manchester United at Old Trafford takes on an added significance for goalkeeper Brad Friedel as he becomes the club's oldest ever player.


Villa's trip to face Manchester United at Old Trafford takes on an added significance for goalkeeper Brad Friedel as he becomes the club's oldest ever player.

At 39 years and 259 days, he replaces Ernest Callaghan in the Villa record books. It will also be the American's 253rd consecutive Premier League appearance - another record.

It will be a tough ask for the veteran to keep a clean sheet against the Premier League leaders, who have won an impressive 11 out of their 12 home league fixtures.

Although Friedel can take heart from the fact he achieved the feat last season, when a Gabby Agbonlahor goal gave Villa a surprise 1-0 victory over the Red Devils.

And manager Gerard Houllier paid tribute to the longevity of the former United States international, who joined Villa in July 2008, ahead of the clash against United.

Houllier said: "Brad should be a role model for everyone. He's a top class professional.

"Not only does he look after himself but he trains hard. People forget about that, the goalkeepers have to train hard. He does, whatever his age, he trains hard. He loves the game, which is very important.

"Brad has the same desire, he wants to win. Before the Blackburn game he said 'I'd like to have a good run in the FA Cup.'

"He's also a very reassuring figure in the dressing room because he's so consistent. You need fighters and you need winners because at the top level you cannot have passengers and he is a real winner.

"He loves the game because if you are still playing at his age that means you have made the sacrifice, the effort and worked for each other. He does that.

"I like him and I am full of admiration for him because he is a top professional and that is why he is still playing.

"He looks after himself and he does yoga and a lot of things. I think it has effects, physically and mentally."

Houllier previously managed Friedel while he was in joint charge of Liverpool with Roy Evans.

It was speculated upon the Frenchman's arrival that he and Friedel had not seen eye to eye at Anfield but Houllier was keen to put that issue to bed once and for all.

He said: "Brad was good at Liverpool. He was very unfortunate because I think before I came some promises were made to him which were not kept.

"And unfortunately at the time the work permit situation meant at the end of the year he had to go, otherwise I would have kept him. But unfortunately he had to go.

"At Liverpool he was not given the chance. Don't forget at the beginning we were a joint management and David James was playing.

"But he was a good goalkeeper at Liverpool. Maybe the experience and knowledge of this game have made him an even better goalkeeper."

After two-and-a-half years at Villa since his £2.5million move from Blackburn, Friedel could be shown the exit door when his contract expires in the summer.

But Houllier admitted that, despite Friedel's age, he has not ruled out the possibility of a new deal for the veteran goalkeeper or even discussed possible replacements.

The Villa boss said: "I told him the end of February we'll have the first assessment. I said to him we're not looking at bringing in a goalkeeper until we can make an assessment of what level you are and what you want to do and so on.

"He's quite happy with that. We talk to him. He says 'I'm fine, I understand.' He's 39, nearly 40, and he understands at some stage we need to change.

"We haven't decided. We will decide that maybe at the end of February or early March when we have a talk with him.

"In the meantime, the Joe Lewis Peterborough thing I can tell you is pure invention from their side. Nobody has talked to anybody there.

"Likewise Shay Given, I have never even mentioned him to my goalkeeping staff that he would come here.

"I think Brad has done well. I think he's gone up to a certain level.

"The proof of that is if I was not happy with him I would have bought a goalkeeper now, which has never crossed our mind."

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