TIM Ream is likely to be 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean for tonight’s game against Arsenal – but he could just as easily be turning out in Gunners colours at the Reebok.
Ream will not be back in the country until the early hours of tomorrow morning, after a long round trip to pick up his newly-stamped passport and newly-wed bride Kristen en route to their English adventure.
Last summer, the centre-half was hot property after a brilliant first season in the MLS for New York Red Bulls, which prompted Thierry Henry to send a scouting report to his old club trying to convince Arsene Wenger to take him to the Premier League.
Thankfully for Wanderers, the MLS club put any potential move to the Emirates on hold, but the 24-year-old believes he is better off for having experienced a difficult second season with Red Bulls.
“I know New York wanted to keep me for a second year and make a push for the top of the league, and they did have my best interests at heart,” he said.
“But while it would have been a great opportunity (to join Arsenal) I wouldn’t have been playing for them. I wouldn’t have had the chance to showcase myself."
After remaining with New York, Ream and Henry struggled for consistency – but the defender hopes to rediscover the kind of form that saw him shortlisted for the MLS Rookie of the Year award.
“It was a great debut season for me,” he said. “I knew what I could do, but I don’t think anyone else expected it. Coming in here I want to replicate that.
“My struggles are well documented last year but any player is going to have tough times. It’s how you get through them that counts.”
Legendary figure Henry has arrived back on the scene at Arsenal, signing a short-term loan deal on January 6 after a year in the States playing alongside Ream.
Wanderers’ new £2.5million centre half was impressed by the experienced Frenchman’s kind recommendation.
“Thierry definitely tipped them off when he came over in the summer,” Ream said. “He’s one of those guys who likes to look out for the younger players.
“He wanted me to have the best opportunity and showcase my abilities but at the same time he knew I was a big part of New York and they wanted me to stay there.”
Although Ream will have to wait at least until the weekend to make his bow, he knows there will be something of a class gap to bridge between the MLS and the Premier League.
But having admired from afar, he is confident he can quickly get up to speed.
“There are quite a few games on every weekend and everyone knows it’s one of, if not the best leagues in the world,” he said. “There are top players all over the field, so I’m well aware it’s going to be a quicker game.
“I played against Manchester City and Spurs in my first year at New York and then Arsenal in the Emirates Cup and Manchester United in the MLS All-Star game, so I’ve had a little bit of experience. But one or two games here or there won’t give you a great idea.
“When you are playing week-in, week-out, you have a much greater understanding and that’s what I want to do.”