Significant First-Team Impact Of Big American
There was only one candidate for the role as interviewer for this one……lifelong Wolves supporter Charles Bamforth is on the same side of the Atlantic as the subject and they even have a good mutual friend, with strong Molineux connections of his own, over in the United States…..
Marcus Hahnemann was skiing when I called for this interview. “No problem,” he said, “I’ll put you on speaker phone.”
It seems that the 6ft 3in former keeper is used to taking calls, literally, at leisure. He was at his cabin in Washington State, fly fishing, when Mick McCarthy phoned in July, 2009: “Did I want to join Wolverhampton Wanderers? McCarthy needed an experienced keeper to provide cover for, as well as challenge, Wayne Hennessey.”
That was a wonderful opportunity for the man who had played some 300 games as a much-loved last line at Reading in eight seasons that took the Berkshire club all the way to the Premiership.
When the Wolves manager called, though, Hahnemann was a free agent, biding his time for the right offer as he did the outdoors thing close to his beloved Seattle birthplace.
Hennessey started the 2009-10 season as first choice but McCarthy decided he would play his number two in the Carling Cup, so the new man’s first-team bow came on August 25 against Swindon. The game finished goalless and went to penalties, with Wanderers winning 6-5, Gordon Greer hitting a post with the sixth Swindon penalty. Marcus even received a yellow card to mark the evening.
A side containing several stand-ins read: Hahnemann, Zubar, Collins, Berra, Elokobi (Edwards), Surman, Jones, Hill, Mendez-Laing (Jarvis), Vokes, Doyle (Keogh). Unused subs: Ikeme, Stearman, Henry, Spray.
After a 4-0 reverse at Chelsea, the American got the nod for the Premiership game against Birmingham at Molineux at the end of November. A solitary Lee Bowyer strike after three minutes proved the only goal but Hahnemann acquitted himself well and secured his place in the side.
By the end of the season, he had played 25 Premiership matches and a couple of Carling games. And he started the following campaign as first choice.
However, after a run of four defeats in November, McCarthy brought Hennessey back, with the American on the bench. It was a time remembered well by Alan Hinton, the coach responsible for starting Hahnemann’s professional career.
The ex-Wolves winger relates in his upcoming autobiography: “I visited Marcus and his lovely wife Amanda when they were living in Lower Penn.
“It was Thanksgiving, so, of course, they did the celebration dinner, to which lots of his friends from his time with Fulham and later Reading were invited.
“Amanda said: ‘It’s normal procedure in this house to say what we are thankful for. Marcus, you go first.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’m not very happy today. Mick McCarthy just told me I’m not starting on Saturday.’”
Although Hahnemann was brought in for the three FA Cup games Wolves played that season, including his last game against Stoke in which the BBC report says ‘the American keeper was proving to be his side’s most valuable asset’, that was that for him as a Wolves keeper.
Overall, though, he enjoyed his time at Molineux. “It was a good group of guys. I was probably closest to Kevin Doyle (also a colleague at Reading) and we played a lot of golf together. It was also great to be around Matt Murray, who was trying so hard to get back from his injuries.
“He probably saved my Wolves career one time. I was in the shower and McCarthy’s right-hand man, Terry Conner, was flipping me s**t when I snapped and, naked, started to chase him. Luckily, Matt grabbed me in time. I got on well with Mick McCarthy until he dropped me!”
Marcus made the following comment for inclusion in Hinton’s book. “In England, I played under the likes of Paul Bracewell, Jean Tigana, Alan Pardew, Steve Coppell, Mick McCarthy and David Moyes, but when people ask me who were the best managers I ever played under, I always say Cliff McCrath and Alan Hinton.”
McCrath was Hahnemann’s coach at Seattle Pacific University before Hinton drafted the keeper in May, 1994 for the resurrected Seattle Sounders, then of the A-League.
“Every quality you could think of that was great to have in a manager, Alan Hinton had them all,” he added.
Hahnemann went from Seattle to Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, setting a club record for the most playing time by any keeper in the club’s history.
He did enough to catch the eye of Bracewell at Fulham and signed for £80,000 in June, 1999. “I was suddenly on a flight to London for pre-season.
“I remember saying to my wife ‘see you in England next week’, not really appreciating the challenges that she had in quitting a job and wrapping up our home in Denver.
“I arrived with high hopes but Maik Taylor had his own ideas and wasn’t going to be readily shifted. The club, though, was promoted to the Premier League and I am back home near Seattle for the summer thinking I was just one red card or one injury away from a place in the top division.
“Then Fulham signed Edwin van der Sar. I very nearly gave it up and we were not far away from moving back to the States but I had a couple of loan spells, at Rochdale and Reading, then Reading signed me full time in August, 2002.”
The Royals went to the top flight in 2006 and, in their first season amid the nobility, Marcus kept 13 clean sheets and made the most saves of any keeper in the division as his side finished a highly respectable eighth. Small wonder that McCarthy took an interest.
Hahnemann was freed by Wolves in the summer of 2011, aged 39. Enter David Moyes, who wanted back-up to Tim Howard. And so Goodison had two United States international goalkeepers.
Marcus had earned his first cap in 1994 and went on to win a total of nine. He never did got on to the field as a senior Toffees player and returned to the Sounders for a couple more seasons before retiring after Sigi Schmidt had selected him just four times for first-team action – something that still irks the big man.
But he is a chill guy: his Twitter feed lists his activities as fishing guide, ski instructor, tree-house builder.