Hibernian (Premier League)
#18 | Defender
March 1, 1986 (Age: 33)
6' 0", 170 lbs (1.83 m, 77 kg)
Jonathan Spector began his professional career under a bit of controversy. FIFA officials deliberated for two months about whether the contract he'd signed with Manchester United in 2003 was in violation of their new rule barring international transfers of players under 18. Finally, it was decided that United were successful in completing the transfer before the rule went into effect, so the Chicago native was then free to start training.
He quickly established himself with the youth teams, then advanced to the regular reserve squad.
Spector made his first team debut against Bayern Munich in a preseason tour in front of a hometown crowd at Soldier Field, holding Bayern scoreless and winning praise from coach Alex Ferguson for his composure.
The youngster earned his first official appearance in Man United's 3-0 Champions League qualifying win over Dinamo Bucharest, and followed that up with Premiership starts against Blackburn and Everton.
Though relegated back to spot duty and reserves matches following the return of Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Gabriel Heinze, the highly rated teenager impressed Ferguson enough to have a loan to Blackburn Rovers nixed when the manager decided the defender might still be needed by the first squad.
After eventually finishing the 2004/05 season with eight total first-team appearances through all competitions, Spector was sent to Premiership side Charlton Athletic for a season-long loan in early July 2005. Spector made a total of 24 first team appearances for the Addicks before he dislocated his shoulder in April and missed the remainder of the season.
In June 2006, Spector penned a four year deal with Premiership club West Ham United for an initial fee of ?500,000, rising to ?1m depending on appearances.
Spector debuted for the Hammers against Palermo in the UEFA Cup in September 2006 and went on to make 25 Premier League appearances in his first season at Upton Park, at right back, left back and in central defense.
The former Man United defender played 62 minutes against his old team in West Ham's 1-0 win at Old Trafford on May 13th 2007, which kept the Hammers in the Premier League.
It was then-US Under-17 coach John Ellinger who was responsible for the fateful position switch that turned Jonathan Spector's career around.
In May of 2002 during the Ballymena International Tournament in Northern Ireland, Ellinger was frustrated that a banged-up defense wasn't performing well. He ordered Spector, a tall forward on the bench, to learn defending basics from an assistant coach during halftime and play the second half.
Spector did so well that Ellinger started him in the next match against an Austrian team. The Manchester United scout, who had come to watch an Austrian forward, came away instead with a glowing report on Spencer's defensive skills.
Spector participated in the U-17 World Cup, but Manchester United head coach Alex Ferguson would not release his player for Olympic qualifying. His presence in the backline was sorely missed and the US team failed to make the Olympics.
Though he transitioned to the U-20 squad, Spector also made the impressive jump to the senior national team at age 18. On November 17, 2004, Spector came on as a defensive sub in the 1-1 tie against Jamaica that eliminated that team from World Cup qualifying.
In June 2005, Spector traveled to the Netherlands with the US U-20 squad for the FIFA World Youth Championship and played in two of their four games.
Subsequent starts for the US national team in 2005 (at home to Panama in their final World Cup qualifier and away to Scotland in a friendly) put Spector in the frame to make Bruce Arena's final roster for World Cup 2006, but his hopes of making it to Germany were shattered when he dislocated his shoulder less than two months before the Finals.
Spector returned to National Team duty in March 2007 in a friendly against Guatemala in Frisco, TX.