So what do you need to survive in the Premier League? An experienced goalscorer? Hard and no-nonsense defenders? Or a goalkeeper who has been there and done it?
After Brad Guzan put-pen-to-paper on a move to the Riverside Stadium, you could argue that Middlesbrough possess all of the qualities to gain survival in England’s top-flight next season.
SHOOT takes a look at the American shot stopper and what his key attributes are to guide the Boro to Premier League survival…
Where did it all start for Guzan?
Born in Evergreen Park; a small village in the North-Western state of Illinois, on September 9, 1984, Guzan was born into a family of Polish ancestry.
Despite the entire state; like the entire nation, being in love with American football, Guzan had an interest in a more unusual sport – soccer.
At the age of 13, he witnessed his nation host the 1994 World Cup. Despite how forgetful it may be to your average folk, it was a tournament that inspired Guzan. He continued to play for his youth side Chicago Magic as well as his high school, from which he graduated from in 2003.
From there, the next step up for the American was college football, as he spent time playing NCAA football for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The dream of professional football was one step closer, but still yet not achieved. That was until the year of 2005. After appearing for two years in the USL Premier Development League for Chicago Fire Reserves, Guzan arrived at the 2005 MLS SuperDraft with some optimism.
It was on this chilly January day where Guzan’s life changed forever, when he was picked up by Chivas USA ahead of the Californian’s side debut season in the top division of America football.
Despite a frustrating first season, Guzan was an ever-present in the red and white jersey, receiving the guidance of his vastly experienced managers, including future national team coach Bob Bradley and former Everton and Portsmouth midfielder “Preki” [Predrag Radosavljević].
The dream was becoming a reality as he grew season-upon-season, and by November 2007, he was awarded the prestigious MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award.
But then came an opportunity of a lifetime. The dream of professional football was about to get even better.
How did he initially adapt to English football?
The summer window of 2008 for Aston Villa will be remembered for the capture of goalkeepers. At the beginning of August, following him being granted a work permit by the Home Office, he was officially confirmed as an Aston Villa player.
By doing so, he became the second American shot stopper to make the move to Villa Park, after manager Martin O’Neill beat Manchester City to the capture of Brad Friedel from Paul Ince’s Blackburn Rovers.
Because of Friedel’s vast experience already in the Premier League, Guzan had to remain content with a place on the bench for most of the 2008/09 season.
Despite the one appearance in England’s top flight; a trip to Anfield following the sending off of Friedel against his former side, Guzan made a name for himself in the domestic and European cup competitions, with his debut coming in a 1-0 defeat in the League Cup to QPR in September 2008.
He continued to make a limited impact the following season also. In fact, you could argue it was worse, with him not even making a single league appearance. Maybe a trip to England wasn’t the right thing after all?
Following the departure of boss O’Neill just days before the start of the 2010/11 season, and his successor Gerard Houlier continuing to opt for Friedel, maybe it was time for a move to somewhere where he would have been guaranteed first-team football.
How did he deal with his loan move to Humberside?
His destination: Hull City, some 132 miles up the road and a division lower, following their relegation from the top-flight under Iain Dowie a year earlier.
Now under the management of Nigel Pearson; Guzan’s debut came in a fixture against Pearson’s former and coincidentally future side, as he played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City – a game overshadowed by the horrific leg break sustained by Greg Cunningham.
While the likes of Robert Koren and Matty Fryatt grabbed the headlines for their goalscoring attributes throughout the end of the season, Guzan performed consistently well for the Tigers in goal, keeping five clean sheets to help the Humberside team to an 11th place finish.
So he was able to perform in the Championship, but could he cut it in the Premier League now?
How did he cope on his return to the West Midlands?
They say to get anywhere in life you need a bit of luck. That is what the American got on his return to Villa Park.
After not making a single Premier League appearance up to this stage, you couldn’t have argued if Guzan would have been thinking about a return to the Championship in another potential loan move.
But; on a Saturday night fixture under the lights at Villa Park, with reigning champions Manchester United visiting town, Guzan was thrown a lifeline.
Thirty-eight minutes were on the clock when Shay Given went down injured. Cue movement on the Villa bench as Guzan prepared to come on for only his second Premier League appearance.
He couldn’t make a huge impact however. “The worst home display in a long time,” were the words of Kevin Keegan on TV post-match as Villa slipped to a horrific defeat.
For Guzan, however, it was an opportunity to show himself in the world’s greatest division. He eventually went on to make an extra six appearances in the league that season.
Until something very strange happened in the summer. With his contract not being renewed, Guzan was looking for a new club. But, after the appointment of manager Paul Lambert from Norwich City, he put-pen-to-paper on a new deal later that summer.
And the 1997 Champions League winner took a like to the USA international. He would go on to make 36 appearances for the Villa that season, with the Claret and Blue’s finishing six points above the relegation places.
From then he has become a fans favourite for the seven-time English champions. But results on the pitch have turned from bad to worse.
And if you keep knocking on the door, eventually it will open. Last season it did for Villa, as they were condemned to the second-tier of English football for the first time since 1988.
How has he performed for the USA National side?
Even since his days playing in the MLS, Guzan has been an ever-present in the USA national squad.
However, he has never really established himself as the number one ‘keeper for the Americans, and always seemed to play second fiddle to Tim Howard.
He made his debut ahead of the 2006 World Cup and has since made 50 caps for his nation; most of which have come in recent years, especially after Howard’s one-year break from international duty after a successful World Cup campaign.