TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett got in touch with the Black & Gold's newest signing, midfielder Chris Birchall, on Monday afternoon to get the Trinidad & Tobago International's reaction on his move to Columbus.
Cody Sharrett: First of all, welcome to Columbus. I'm sure there were other offers out there, what was it that made the Crew appealing?
Chris Birchall: Really, it was the amount of interest that (the Crew) put in me. I heard they were trying to get me ever since last season. It was nice to feel wanted and I knew that they wanted to bring me here. The only reason why it took a bit longer than usual was really I had to think what was best for my family and with my fiancé and my three-year-old boy. I moved back to England, so it was just the case of choosing what was right at the end of the day we all decided that Columbus was the right move.
CS: Obviously, you played with Frankie Hejduk last year, he's here in the front office now, and you've played with Julius James on the Trinidad & Tobago National Team. How did they help influence your decision?
CB: Frankie was one of the best guys I've ever met when he came to LA. We became close with his family and we became close. He's only ever said good things about the club. When you hear nice things and you know people on the team it makes the decision a bit easier. You know you're not going in completely not knowing anyone. Like I said, they've been friends and they only had good things to say about the Crew.
CS: We've had several famous Trinidad & Tobago National Team players play here in Columbus including Stern John, Ansel Elcock, Julius James and a few others. What's it mean to follow in their footsteps, carrying on that tradition?
CB: I just hope I can carry on the tradition, really. My thoughts are really just do the best I can and play well for the Crew and do what I was brought into the club for. I do know Stern very well, he is a close friend. I know how much he loved his time here and I think the fans loved him as well with how well he did when he was here. He was another person I spoke to in the past few weeks. He only had good things to say. When a lot of people are saying good things about Columbus, it was very easy to make a decision.
CS: You're coming off an MLS Cup victory with LA. How can you bring that winning mentality to the Crew locker room?
CB: Really, I mean I still keep in touch with the boys in LA. I've got a few good friends there. To be honest, it wasn't just the playing side. We had a great team spirit. A couple of the guys said they missed me in the dressing room, it means a lot. It's not just your ability on the pitch, people like you being around and in the locker room as well. I think that's one of the problems with LA at the moment, they've brought into a mix of players and the team spirit is not as high as it was last year. That's another thing that I'm trying to do here is just come in and work myself in on the pitch and try and bring some banter and some good humor into the dressing room because that's really my personality. I can get on with anybody and I'm down to earth and I like to have a laugh at the same time.
CS: You haven't played since MLS Cup. What have you been doing to stay fit and how far away do you feel you are from being match fit?
CB: I was training for two or three months with my local team back in England, which is Port Vale where I started my career. Up to about five or six weeks ago, I was training with them. But when you haven't trained soccer match fit for five or six week, it does take its toll and its time to get back. I really hope it doesn't take quite long to get me match fit. I don't know what the idea or the schedule is for me. Whether it's to get me a little bit fit first and then throw me in or whether it's to throw me in and try to get me match fit as quick as possible. I really won't know until I speak with (Crew head coach Robert Warzycha), but I'm hoping that it's not longer than a few weeks.
CS: And when you finally do get on the field, what do you feel you can bring to the Crew's midfield?
CB: Just really my style, which a lot of MLS has seen. It's really just trying to do the dirty work and win the balls back and put some good tackles in and just be that kind of anchor between the defense and midfield. My best position is defensive midfield, even though I can play on the right. I think really just to win a lot of tackles and win the balls and get the ball to the attackers that can do the damage really.