Consistency is his forte

Tim Howard... one of the best in the English Premier League.-AP

Last year, goalkeeper Tim Howard was an integral part of the Everton side that reached the FA Cup final, producing heroics in the semifinal penalty shootout against his old club Manchester United before the Toffees went on to lose the final to Chelsea 2-1, writes Michael Klimes.

For a country where football plays only a minor role in the national sporting consciousness, the U.S. has a fine history of producing great goalkeepers.

Tony Meola, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller have all emerged from America to light up the very top level of the game. And now Tim Howard is following in that tradition.

The Everton shot-stopper is firmly established as one of the best players in the Barclays English Premier League, having first arrived in England with Manchester United in 2003.

He started his career at the New York Red Bulls, formerly the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, in 1998, where he provided back up for, and subsequently replaced, the great Meola as the club’s starting ’keeper — making more than 80 appearances in total.

His rise to stardom in his homeland was rapid and in 2001 he became the youngest player to win the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award after making an impressive 146 saves throughout the campaign.

The following year he won full senior international recognition after making his debut against Ecuador, and it was not long before his talents were being recognised further afield. He moved to Manchester United in July 2003 and replaced the ageing Fabian Barthez in the Old Trafford goal.

Initially, he was highly successful — helping United win the FA Cup and being named the English Professional Footballers’ Association Goalkeeper of the Year in 2004. However, it was not long before the pressure of playing at United began to tell and Howard made a series of costly errors, culminating against Chelsea in the Carling Cup in 2005 as United went down to a late Damien Duff free-kick.

Gradually, his place in the team came under threat and he was eventually overshadowed by Edwin van der Sar, who signed ahead of the 2005/06 campaign to become boss Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice.

Van der Sar’s arrival prompted Howard to seek a fresh challenge and in 2006 he joined Everton on a season-long loan. He was so impressive that Goodison boss David Moyes signed him permanently in February 2007 on a four-year deal. Howard settled at Everton quickly and he made 46 appearances in the 2007/08 campaign.

He has since emerged as one of the most consistent players in the EPL and last year he was an integral part of the Everton side that reached the FA Cup final, producing heroics in the semifinal penalty shootout against his old club Manchester United before the Toffees went on to lose the final to Chelsea 2-1.

Away from the pitch, Howard has not always had things easy. He suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome — a neurological disorder that causes nervous tics and uncontrolled verbal outbursts. “Tourette’s Syndrome is not a problem. It is part of my life,” he said. “It is unfortunate people are not as educated as they should be but that’s the way of the world.”

Howard married Laura in New York’s Central Park in 2003, just days before he moved to Manchester United. During his time at Old Trafford he was reported to be driving a BMW 530i.

FACTFILE Name: Tim Howard Position: Goalkeeper Club: Everton D.O.B.: 06/03/1979 U.S. caps: 42 U.S. goals: 0 U.S. debut: v Ecuador (10/03/2002) Moment to remember

Howard helped the U.S. win the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup for a fourth time and second straight victory as it beat Mexico 2-1.

Moment to forget

In 2004, in a tie with Porto in the UEFA Champions League, Howard was singled out for heavy criticism as his errors saw United go down to a Benni McCarthy double. It proved to be the beginning of the end for Howard at Manchester United as Ferguson gradually lost faith in the American.

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