BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, May 31, 2013
After coming off a midtable finish with Birmingham City, Jonathan Spector is excited about the future of club in the years ahead.
Spector was a solid contributor last season where he played in the midfield as well as at either fullback position. Manager Lee Clarke praised Spector's ability to play several positions and acknowledged his value to the team.
With that success, the Blues rewarded his effort with an offer of new contract which the Chicago native is still weighing. One of the factors that goes in Birmingham City's favor is that he believes that a return to the Premier League is possible for the club which was relegated in 2011.
"I do think the club can challenge for promotion," Spector told YA. "The league this past season was very tight, and we were only a couple of wins from making the playoffs. That is no small feat considering we had a new manager in Lee Clarke. It takes time for a new manager to get his ideas across and for the players to respond. I think that was evident in our performances during the second half of the season. He had the team playing well and we can build on that going into next season."
It hasn't been the best of times at Birmingham City recently as financial problems have dominated coverage of the club in England. Debt crises have been prevalent throughout Europe in recent years as prestigious clubs like Rangers, Brondby, and Valencia have all fallen on hard times.
Spector is well aware of the difficulties at the club but insists that it is not something that concerns him as a player.
"It seems like it is a difficult time for many clubs throughout Europe, but the financial troubles of Birmingham City have been more publicized," Spector said. "As players we are aware of the financial circumstances, however, it is not our role to concern ourselves with the finances. It's important that we keep our focus on the playing side as we have no control over the rest."
On the international front, Spector continues to be in regular contact with US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and is hoping to get back on the national team in the future. He is not on the team for the upcoming qualifiers but is also preparing for his upcoming wedding in June.
So far in his career, Spector has earned 34 caps for the US team and his most recent was over a year ago in February 2012 in a 1-0 win over Italy. He was on the 2010 World Cup team but did not make an appearance in any of the games. With the 2014 World Cup a little more than a year away, Spector is optimistic in the team's direction under Klinsmann.
"I have been in touch with Juergen on numerous occasions," Spector said. "He does a great job of staying in touch with players which as the manager of a national team is crucial. He doesn't get as much time with the players as I'm sure he would like due to club commitments, but he has a lot of great ideas as to how we can improve individually at our clubs and together as a national team."
Spector is still only 27 years old but this year will mark a decade since he signed his first professional contract. His career began in 2003 after Manchester United scouts came away impressed after spotting him at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland.
In 2004, Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson elected to play Spector in the FA Community Shield as well as in a Champions League qualifier soon afterward. The following year, Spector would move to Charlton on loan before transferring to West Ham.
Despite only playing with Manchester United for a season, Spector remembers his time fondly there largely because of the confidence Ferguson showed in him.
Ferguson's recent retirement after 26 years at Manchester United was one of the year's biggest stories in soccer and Spector admits that the legendary coach has big role in his early years as a player.
"Sir Alex Ferguson will be deeply missed in the soccer world," Spector concluded. "He has been a mainstay at arguably the biggest club in the world for over two decades, and I wish him the very best in whatever future role he takes on at the club. One of his many, and possibly most important, strengths is his ability to instill a winning mentality in all his players. As a young player, it means a great deal when a manager like him has the faith and confidence to give you an opportunity in his team."