Way back when we started The Shin Guardian Maurice Edu was the first player to recognize our publication on Twitter.
Later that year in October, when we worked with groups of fans to initiate the Charlie Davies Salute at RFK following his horrific accident, it was again Mo Edu that recognized our effort and was the first to get the word out–despite dealing with his own grief.
There is a reason that Mo Edu has more followers than any other U.S. player on Twitter and that’s because it’s easy to see he’s just a genuine guy.
Follow him on Twitter and you’ll see.
He’s always responding to those that reach out to him, even though he is, you know, a Champions League player, now a World Cup veteran, and an integral part of one of the most storied clubs in all of sports, Glasgow Rangers.
Ladies and gentleman, finally, our conversation with Mo Edu:
(Note: This conversation taped before Edu’s knee injury that will rule him out of tomorrow’s Manchester United clash at Ibrox.)
TSG: Well first, I’m not going to ask you about some of the following popular subjects, like: “The World Cup” “Slovenia goal” “Ghana” and “Ricardo Clark.”
Mo Edu: Okay, very cool. Thanks.
TSG: I hear Sky Sports reports all the time referring to you as “Morris” and then the States reports referring to you as “Maurice.” Do you go by Morris, Maurice, or Mo?
Mo: Mo. It’s just Mo. I prefer Mo.
TSG: Straightaway. Good. I can stop guessing or, rather, messing that up.
Okay, let’s get rolling. Recently you became the first American to score twice in a Champions League match. (Maurice Edu scored against Valencia and then (d’oh) diverted one into his own net afterward. The Rangers drew Valencia in that one, 1-1.)
Talk about that.
Mo: [Laughing] I mean, it was a great game. I would have obviously liked for both of those two goals to be for our team…
It was great to score my first Champions League goal, but not winning the game was obviously more disappointing.
TSG: Tell me about the difference in playing a league game versus a Champs League game. Is it the publicity and the press? The mindset? Is there a different mentality at all?
Mo: Well, first it’s expectations. In the domestic league, we’re expected to win every game. Every game we’re pretty much the favorites. And we’ve done well in our league this year and lived up to it.
In the Champions League, we’re playing the best in the world. We’re the underdogs and our formation in those games, the 4-5-1, reflects this and is a reflection of the quality of the teams we’re playing against.
Obviously the Champions League is more difficult and, no disrespect to the SPL, but it’s just a different feel.
TSG: Is there a different feel in practice during those weeks as well? Is there more intensity in preparation?
Mo: Nah, to be honest…everyone just gets excited for the Champions League. We all look forward to it.
We know it’s huge. It’s a pretty big opportunity for us to play in those games. For our team.
I think because of how we’ve done thus far this season in the league, we’re pretty confident going into the games [in the CL] and think we can do something special this year.
TSG: What’s been the best or unique experience in traveling for the Champions League?
Mo: Playing in different, storied stadiums. We played at Old Trafford and the Mestalla in Spain–two historical stadiums.
Playing in those stadiums is something that you dream of as a kid. Obviously Old Trafford is the home one of the most renowned clubs in the world and has a great atmosphere.
That [playing at Old Trafford] being my first Champions League game it was very exciting. It’s a special moment to play there.
Then when we play at home in Champions League it’s second to none because of the good turnout by our fans and how much energy there is for those games.
Champions League games at Ibrox are something special. You really have to be there to witness just what the feeling is.
TSG: I spoke to some of the Rangers supporters and they wanted to know this specifically-worded question, “How freaky do you find the Rangers-Celtics rivalry?”
Mo: I mean, well first and foremost, for those that don’t know, it’s the biggest sports rivalry in the world. [A little more about it here.]
The lead-up to those games are just full of excitement. When the games kickoff…well, I’ve never been let down.
The passion that goes into the game by each team and the passion and the hatred that goes against the other teams by the fans is just amazing.
It’s a game we all relish and look forward to and I’ve never been let down.
I’ve been fortunate enough to score in one and I always really enjoy the games actually.
TSG: In terms of that rivalry–and while the Scottish Premier League is itself a very physical league–it’s hard not notice how many more fouls there are in the Celtics-Rangers game and just how unbelievably physical the matches are.
Do you notice that out on the field?
Mo: Well, it’s always hard because the week before there is so much hype leading up to the game. It’s the only thing that people talk about all week. Everywhere you look around town the week before the game is all about the game.
There’s a large buildup going into the game…so when the game kicks off there is a lot of energy, a lot of passion and emotion that’s already built up and now let go on the field.
You try to keep a calm head and not get wound up in all the silliness that goes on, but it’s hard not to feel it.
TSG: You mentioned earlier in your career–when you were at Toronto FC–that it was important for you to go to a well-known, established club to learn. What have you improved about your game at Rangers?
Mo: Well, overall, it’s maturing.
I’ve become a more well-rounded player; I’ve tried to become good at all the little things in the game. The biggest part though has been growing up and maturing though.
TSG: Another question from the Ibrox faithful here: Do you expect to play as long as Sir David Weir?
Mo: [chuckles] I’d love to. He’s definitely elite. He’s a true professional. He’s a dedicated athlete. He takes care of his body and that’s a testament to him that he’s played as long as he has at his level.
I don’t think many players go on and play as long as he does and it’d be fortunate if I could do that…
TSG: Let’s transition to the U.S. team. I want to go back to October because one of the focal points of camp was your position on the team, specifically playing centerback instead of midfield.
Now it’s not a position you hadn’t played, but it’s not the one you’ve honed and improved yourself with at Rangers. How did that get set up? Did you come in the first day and were you playing central defense already?
Mo: When I first got there he [Bob] gave me a heads up and said that…they were going to look at me back there and for me to keep an open mind.
So that’s how I went about the week and attempted to learn from the guys around me.
TSG: Was there a specific reason–better distribution or pressing speed–that Bob put you back there? What was the impetus for it?
Mo: I mean, he tried to explain to me that I had good attributes that might lead me to do well back there. He wanted to give me a chance to experience it and for them to see how it could work out.
TSG: How do you feel it worked out?
Mo: I thought it was alright. It went okay, not the greatest. I didn’t feel too out of my comfort zone. I think as the game wore on, I got better.
I mean I don’t think I’m a seasoned vet back there or anything, but it was alright.
TSG: At the end of camp, you next played in the three-man midfield against Colombia. So what was the overall feedback of the camp in playing those two positions?
Mo: Basically, the feedback was that he thinks that I have some quality beneficial to play centerback. That was about it.
TSG: Do you have the sense that you’ll be tried out there permanently? Or will you continue to get runs at both positions? Is the latter a fair statement or am I putting words in your mouth?
Mo: Well, like I said, they see me as a center midfielder but with the option that I could possibly play centerback if needed.
TSG: Okay, let’s move on, some teammate questions for you.
Which player do you want with you if you’re about get in a brawl in a bar?
Mo: Gooch, easily.
And…for Rangers, Kirk Broadfoot.
TSG: Who’s the best ball striker you’ve ever played with from a scoring perspective. Who’s got the sweetest shot on goal?
Mo: Clint strikes the ball well. He’s got good technique and when he gets it…yeah.
TSG: What players do or did you learn the most from at Gers?
Mo: Barry Ferguson and Pedro Mendes. Every day in training, I learned something from those guys. Those were the guys I tried to emulate.
TSG: Okay, what are your aspirations for your level of play in the future? Where do you see yourself progressing to, level-wise or league-wise?
Mo: I’ve always been a fan of Arsenal. They’re my favorite team, so I could see myself there at some point. Then when you watch a team like Barcelona you obviously like to think about possibly playing there with the way they move the ball.
TSG: Is your agent based overseas?
Mo: No, in the States.
TSG: So how does it work…your contract is up in two more years. Does the club come to you and say something to the effect of, “We’re trying to get a return on investment and we’re shopping you around”?
Or do you, the player, say, “I want to go somewhere else”?
Or do you just wait to six months before the end of the contract and that necessitates the conversation?
Mo: It could happen numerous ways and either the first two ways you described are the most likely ones.
As a player, though, you try not to think of that stuff at all. When you think too much about that stuff, you’re game goes down.
That’s why you hire the agent.
TSG: Okay, carefully then: has there been chatter about you moving given your age and the solid campaign that you’re having this year?
Mo: [Laughing] I don’t know. I had a couple of rough seasons with injuries and this is the first year I haven’t really been injured.
Right now, I’m focused on helping my team out and getting some trophies to Ibrox.
TSG: Okay, fair enough.
Something people don’t know, is that your father had a stroke a few years ago. I wanted to ask you about this because my mother is afflicted with something similar called AVM (Arterio-Venous Malformation).
Has he ever been able to come over and watch you play?
Mo: It’s difficult for them to come over. He hasn’t been able to come over.
The last camp back in the States in Chicago, that’s the first time he was able to see me play in a while.
It was really good for him to come see me play. My brother comes over here often though.
TSG: In terms of playing in front of your father, talk about how special it is since he can’t come aboard.
Mo: My father introduced me to the game at a young age and now he can’t come to most of my games. He was my first coach. He doesn’t have as big a role now and that’s difficult sometimes.
When he does get a chance to see me play it’s very special. I try hard every game, but those games when he’s there are really important.
TSG: Does he follow you on TV?
Mo: They try to get as many games as they can.
TSG: Do you catch up after the games on the phone and talk about them?
Mo: It’s difficult, you know, given his condition… [pauses…]
TSG: Okay…let’s change up the thinking. There are a number of high-profile Americans now abroad from old timers like Friedel and Cherundolo to the young guys like yourself, Stu and Jozy. How’s the “player network” help for Americans abroad?
Mo: It’s good having all the guys here and around Europe.
Sometimes you feel all alone overseas, but now you can go visit a lot more with a lot of the guys you played with either growing up or in camps. For me personally I haven’t had the time to go visit; I’ve had a lot of midweek games, but I’m looking forward to getting out to see the guys.
Stuart had a chance to come catch the game at Old Trafford.
Jozy had a chance to watch the game in Spain.
It’s just good having friends around.
TSG: I’ll leave it there for the day. I wanted to thank you for always supporting The Shin Guardian from our initial days. You’ve always been supportive and given us the time of day and I thank you for that.
Mo: Oh man, no problem, my pleasure.
TSG: And we’ve grown quite a bit. We averaged about a half million readers per month during the World Cup and we’re growing!
Mo: Really, no worries. Glad I could play my role in it.
Mo Edu, genuine.