Tim Ream says that he remains committed to Fulham even after their relegation to the Championship as the U.S. men's national team defender looks forward to trying to lead the club back to the Premier League once again.
Ream, who is with the USMNT ahead of a friendly against Switzerland and the continuation of the CONCACAF Nations League, had a difficult season with Fulham. The 33-year-old defender was limited to just eight appearances in all competitions.
But, after captaining the team against Manchester United and Newcastle to close the season, Ream says he's highly motivated to prove himself once again on the club level as he looks to lead Fulham's charge next season.
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What did Ream say?
"When given an opportunity I want to perform at my best and I think the last couple of weeks was a proving ground for myself to show that I can still play at a very high level and continue to warrant being given opportunities," Ream said.
"Being able to play in front of our fans against Newcastle was fantastic. It was great to see people out in the stadium and chanting and even booing a bit. The passion is slowly coming back and, as players, that pushes us on.
"In terms of my future, it wasn't reported but I signed a contract last summer, so I'm contracted and I'm happy to stay with Fulham and play my part.
"I've had conversations with Scott [Parker, Fulham manager] and with the backroom staff and they want me there and I want to be there. I want to play a part and push the team and play as many games as possible to try to earn promotion again."
The grind of the Championship
Next season won't be Ream's first in England's second division, as the American defender has now been relegated from the Premier League three times.
He's played a total of seven career seasons in the Championship, having surpassed the 40-appearance mark in five of those seasons.
"I joke with friends and family that the Championship takes years off your career," he says. "I've said for the past couple years that I feel like I could go until I'm 37-38, so imagine if I wasn't playing in the Championship as long as I have.
"It's difficult. It's one game after another. You're playing on a Saturday, you're playing on Tuesday or it's Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday. So it's all about taking care of yourself, doing the right things off the field, and making sure you recover properly. And if you do that, and you have a little bit of luck on the way injury-wise you put yourself in a good place to be a big part of a promotion-winning team.
"In terms of our squad, it'll be interesting. We have a lot of guys coming back from loans who were in that promotion-winning squad. who may not want to stick around and some may want to give it another try, so we'll see.
"A lot of it's up in the air right now, there are still meetings going on with the backroom staff and the owners. We're going to push for promotion and I think we're very well set up to give it another go."
A St. Louis homecoming?
Ream's career began with the New York Red Bulls, where he starred for two years before signing with Bolton, but the defender's true start came in St. Louis.
Born in the Missouri city, Ream also went on to play collegiately at St. Louis University, starring for the Billikens before being selected in the second round of the 2010 MLS Draft.
St. Louis SC, one of the league's newest expansion teams, is set to join MLS in 2023 and, as a local star, Ream has been earmarked by many as a potential signing ahead of the club's inaugural season.
Ream himself didn't rule it out, although the defender says his goal is to stay in Europe for at least a little while longer.
"It's on the radar," Ream said. "I think it's always on the radar, MLS in general, but for me personally, I still have that drive to stay in England. I love the daily grind and constant pressure of promotion and relegation, of trying to be the best that you can possibly be with consequences where, if you don't perform, you're dropped very quickly and someone surpasses you.
"I'm still in the mindset of trying to beat out 25, 26, 27-year-olds, guys who are six, seven, eight years younger than me, trying to beat them out for a spot in the team at Fulham. Right now that's my focus.
"If something comes up down the line, if they contact us in St Louis or any MLS team contacts us, I always take that into consideration and weigh up with the options. We have the pros and cons and I go from there."