Jonathan Spector interview

Jason F

Full Member
Apr 30, 2002
Jonathan Spector

At just 17 years young, U.S. Youth National team defender Jonathan Spector already has a four-year contract locked down with the most prolific club in Europe. A Chicago native, Spector gives us the scoop on his future at Old Trafford, Landon Donovan’s career path, and soccer shoes gone awry.

Manchester United began pursuing you after seeing you play at a tournament in Northern Ireland last year. How did your relationship with the club begin?
During our game against Austria a scout from Man Utd was there to look at one of the Austrian forwards. I shut him down, and they actually didn’t have any shots the entire game. From there he recommended me to the coaching staff, and they brought me in on trial. I went over in October for the first time and stayed to train for a week and a half. They offered me a contract on the last day I was there. They told me to go home and talk it over with my parents.

On my way home I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to turn down that opportunity. Then in January they brought my whole family over to see the club and where I’d be staying when I moved over there. They also took us to a couple of games. I got to go meet a couple of the guys after the game in the locker room like [Ruud] Van Nistelroy, Laurent Blanc, [Rio] Ferdinand, and [Ryan] Giggs—it was great.

Most moms break down in tears when their children head off to college. You’ll be thousands of miles away, not yet 18, in one of the most cut-throat sporting environments in the world. Are your parents concerned, and how will you adjust?

Like anything, they’re a little bit concerned. But the people over there were very accommodating and the Man Utd staff really looks after the players, so I don’t think they’re too worried. The family I’ll be staying with are great people so it should work out fine. I’ve been living away from home being down here at the Academy, so I’m kind of accustomed to being away from my family. I’ve never really had a problem adjusting to situations like that, so I can’t say I’m too worried about it. Plus, my mom will be coming over to visit every once in awhile.

We’ve all seen the struggles American players have had abroad, most notably with Landon Donovan’s situation in Germany. How concerned are you with getting a fair shot?
I’m not too worried. I have a German background anyways, so I know it was a little bit different scenario with him. He was at Bayer Leverkeusen, and the town itself is a pretty tough place to live. It’s not really in the back of my mind, though. I’m just mainly focused on going over there to be successful. I don’t really intend on doing anything less.

Jovan Kirovski entered the Manchester United youth program several years ago and eventually had to go to Germany to find first team playing time. Do you feel any added pressure to go over there and prove not only that you can play the game, but that Americans can too?

In Kirovski’s case, he couldn’t get a work permit. That was his only problem. But, yes, it’s tough for some American players to go over there because they don’t have a European passport or are unable to get working papers. I’m very excited about the opportunity I have, and I’m just hoping to make the most of it. My ultimate goal would be stepping into the first team and playing a game at Old Trafford.

We’ve all enjoyed watching the American success stories in England. Have you had the opportunity to communicate with any of the senior national team players competing over there like Brad Friedel, Claudio Reyna, or Kasey Keller?

I didn’t get a chance to speak with any of them, but I did get a chance to talk with John Thorrington. Manchester is where he first signed when he went over to England. He just told me to feel comfortable with the situation. He said that it’s going to be a lot different environment, but soccer is played the same all over the world, and there’s no reason I couldn’t do well.

You joined the youth national team as a striker, but now you’re playing central defender. How was the transition? It was a big help after playing offense to make the transition because I understood the role of the forward. I’ve been an attacking midfielder my whole life so it’s been a big help. To be honest, I was just happy I was getting playing time. That was the way I was able to get on the field, and it’s worked out well for me, especially because it’s what got me signed with Manchester United. I miss playing up front a little bit, but Coach Ellinger gives me the freedom to make runs out of the back. I get up on set pieces and corner kicks too, so I get my chances.

You just came off a very successful Dallas Cup with the U-17’s. The team made the final, but you had to sit out with a suspension. What happened?

It was a red card, actually, after getting two yellows in the semifinal. The first one I got elbowed in the eye by one of Newcastle’s players. It cut me open, and I had to go get stitches, so I had to give him a little payback. It wasn’t a major tackle, but I came in a little late and got a yellow for it. On the second one they played a through ball when I was shielding the guy off. I had possession of the ball, but he gave me a two-hand shove from behind. The ref didn’t make the call, and he was on his way to score, so I had to take him out. It was rather unfortunate.

After you compete in the World Championships in Finland this August, you’ll head over to compete under the guidance of Man Utd’s legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Did you get the chance to meet with him during your visit?
I did. He talked with my family while I was over there, and I got a couple photos with him. He was a little difficult to understand at first because of the accent, but he was a very nice guy, pretty outgoing and everything. He mainly coaches with the full team, but I’m sure every now and then he’ll be down to check out what’s going on with the youth level teams.

No soccer shoes to the face then?

Definitely not. Luckily they won the game. I was told not to talk with him if they lost.

Most American players come back with a brand new accent. Can we expect the same from you?

I’m not planning on picking that one up anytime soon. I don’t think it’s something I want. I think I’ll try to keep the Chicago accent for as long as I can.

Just found this one, I think he was discussed a while back when the story broke, has he played or anything for us yet? anyone know much about him?