Liam Ridgewell is looking forward to his return to English football this weekend and believes there are a number of similarities between Brighton and his American side, Portland Timbers.
The 31-year-old defender has been with Portland since 2014 and captained them to the MLS Cup last season. He has joined injury-hit Albion for a six-week loan spell and is set to make his debut away to Hull in the FA Cup on Saturday.
He said: “I’m really happy about it. Obviously I did it last year with Wigan when I came back on loan and got games and trained, so I’m delighted to be back in English football.”
On Portland’s season and similarities between Timbers and Brighton, Ridgewell said: “It was an unbelievable season. The year before we missed out on the play-offs by a point. This season the main aim was to get into the playoffs and the confidence rolled from there.
“It ended up being a fantastic season where we won the MLS Cup. I think a lot of people were surprised we did win it. We were quietly confident and knew if we performed on the day we could beat anyone.
“I think it relates a lot to Brighton and what is going on here at the minute. A lot of people may have counted them out but they’ve certainly turned it on and showed what they can do this season.
“People in here I’m sure are quietly confident, like everyone is. But otherwise people outside would probably write them off at the start of the season to be going anywhere.
“So I can compare that to Timbers. We had the same sort of thing. People were counting us out, thinking we weren’t going to make the play-offs and blahblahblah and we went and won it and surprised a lot of people. It shut a few people up. It’d be nice to do that with Brighton as well.”
Ridgewell said Albion boss Chris Hughton was a big factor in his decision to sign for the club and looking at Brighton’s season, he said: “So far it has been fantastic. I think a lot of people might have counted them out in the Championship this year, but I think they’ve shown the qualities that they’ve got.
“Coming to Christmas is a tough period. There’s a lot of games and they’ve had a lot of good games as well against a lot of very good clubs as well. Coming back out of the end of Christmas you want to start kicking on in January, try and make a claim towards the end of the season.
“I’m sure we’ll be there, or they’ll be there, come the end of the season, certainly fighting to get promoted.”
Ridgewell feels the likes of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, Kaka and a number of other players have helped bring the standard of the MLS up and admitted the MLS Cup success was a highlight of his career.
The former Aston Villa, Birmingham and West Brom defender said: “It’s a massive highlight in my career. I went over there to win stuff, I didn’t just want to go there to wind down my career. I went there at 29.
“I won the Carling Cup with Birmingham, beating Arsenal in the final. That was definitely the biggest highlight of my career but winning the MLS Cup is certainly on a par with it. They’ve never won anything before.
“We made history by doing it. For such a great town to bring the cup home was massive. I’ve never experienced the celebrations we had, so it’s definitely up there with winning the Carling Cup with Birmingham.”
There is also an unusual ritual where anyone who scores or keeps a clean sheet for Portland receives a piece of timber. Ridgewell said: “That’s right, Timber Joey cuts off a bit of log and hands it to you and after the game you hold it up to the crowd and you show it to everybody. When he cuts it they send it all around the ground, so everybody gets to touch it before you get it.
“Before I went there I thought it was absolutely crazy but it’s such a good thing to be able to interact with the fans. You walsk around the pitch after, you clap. Everyone is still there, win, lose or draw, they are still clapping.”
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