To go MLS or not.
Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Chris Birchall has a major career decision to make at the start of 2009 – Whether to stay in England or make the move over to the United States Major League Soccer.
He has two options which involves a deal offered by MLS club San Jose Earthquakes and has also been invited for a try out with Brighton by Micky Adams, the man who signed him at Coventry City from Port Vale following the 2006 World Cup
“It’s a massive decision for me to make as far as my career goes and it’s one which I'll have to think very carefully about and decide in maybe two weeks,” Birchall told TTFF Media on Thursday. “But at the moment I haven’t made any final decisions on going to the US.”
He will join Brighton on a one-week training stint after which Adams is expected to make an offer while San Jose head coach Frank Yallop wants him to sign with the club and join them for preseason training in February.
Now if Birchall goes to the USA, he is considering the fact that it will allow him to be closer to Trinidad during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers as well as give him the chance to join the team in a live-in training camp in Argentina in the build up to the match against El Salvador on February 11. Birchall said that he had no fears over his fitness as if he did sign with San Jose, he would have the option of staying on and training with Brighton or another English club up until his switch to the MLS in February.
“Coventry paid me off and I spent my time at Carlisle where I’ve played a series of Reserve games and also had some brief appearances for the first team so I’m fitter than I was at Coventry. At Carlisle I’d been playing 90 minutes of Reserve football in midweek as well as getting runs with the first team on the weekend.
“I’m in a far better position now than I was at Coventry because both these new offers can be beneficial for me but I’ve got to take a good look along with my agent and see which is the better one,” Birchall said. “I’ll know more and come to a firm decision in maybe two weeks as far as my future lies.
“The fact that going to the US will mean I’m closer to Trinidad is definitely something that I will think about and fitness wise I’m not worried because I will definitely be active in England before the MLS season starts. But I’m heading to Brighton on Monday for a week because my old manager Micky Adams wants me there and if I do well enough in that time then there’s the possibility of them putting a decent deal on the table.”
Birchall also shared his thoughts on the 2009 period as it relates to international football with T&T and one of the things he spoke about was the desire to put away any and all differences that may have plagued the team in the past.
“I think we are all really eager to get the situation regarding the World Cup bonuses out of the way. We need to throw out that argument and I think that will definitely happen in the new year. Since I’ve been back it’s been exciting because we all realize that we can play some good football and be a force to be reckoned with while having our best players in the team.
“Jack Warner had some words with me when I got back into the team and in some way he apologized for whatever ways the football may have been affected. I personally appreciate everything he’s done for me and I think the other players feel the same too. He brought me from League One football into the international stage and a World Cup and there’s nothing in my career that I appreciate more than that. The last thing I want to do is get into a fight with the Vice President of FIFA, so we definitely want to get this issue out of the way and focus on reaching the next World Cup,” Birchall added.
“This year (2009) is going to be a really exciting one because we’ve put ourselves in a great position, even better than in 2006 I think. We have done the hardest part which was getting into the final round because we faced a tricky contest to get there. We’ve been in this position before and I think with the blend of youth and experience we have now… we can definitely be a force. I feel we can be in with a great chance of winning all our home games and looking for points on the road which should put us in a fine position on the standings.”
Birchall also made his feelings known on the appointment of Russell Latapy as assistant coach.
“It’s not a surprise to any of us. I think we are more than happy now that it’s a done deal and a bonus to the rest of the team. We can learn loads about the game in every aspect from Russell and it’s nice to have him in a capacity where we can speak to each other and he can share his ideas with the head coach and vice versa. We are definitely looking forward to working with him in a way that is going to be more than a teammate relationship,” Birchall concluded.