The English winger has spent this international break doing what he has dubbed a “mini-preseason” in preparation for New York’s stretch run into the playoffs. Having last played a professional match in May, Sam realizes fitness is key if he were to achieve his goal of starting for his new side.
“I wouldn’t say I am too far off right now man,” Sam told EoS. “I’ve been in the last six days (training) and am going to keep going, training hard. Before I came, I had done a little bit, so it wasn’t like I was staying at home for a couple of months. I’ll put myself down for selection for the next game, so it’s up to the manager.”
Thierry Henry, known to be a tenacious and competitive player during training sessions, may have rubbed off on New York’s latest acquisition. The Red Bulls captain took some time during the last week to work with Sam. Filling in the middle for Tim Cahill (on international duty with Australia), Sam showed quickness on the ball, speed in the counter and a familiar feisty attitude against New York’s first team.
“(Henry) really does get in there,” Sam noted. “I mean, we’ve had a few days off and he has come in everyday with me and the keeper and I’ve been really surprised. He has won everything in the game and he is coming in on his days off of working, and he is doing sessions and he is running sessions and I’ve been really impressed. He’s a winner no matter what – even if it’s a simple game of two touch.
“He’s definitely a character. You won’t miss him.”
The Englishman broke into the lineup late against DC United. Up until that point, he was simply getting acclimated with his new team.
It didn’t take long for him to see where he would be needed most.
“When I’ve watched, they need a wide man on the team,” he noted. “They lost a good player Dane Richards that was here before, but it’s evident they need a wide man I think anyway. I think that’s why I’ve been brought in.
“I don’t really know much about (Richards) if I’m honest. I think he’d done quite well, he was here for a long time. But I don’t really know too much about him. He wasn’t here when I was here. I’m not really worried about all that. I am just trying to do the best I can.”
The gaping need for a break through winger wasn’t the only thing he observed. “The competition – it’s obvious when we play teams, teams are raising their game against us,” he said. “It’s always difficult when you are a team like the New York Red Bulls. Every game is going to be a difficult game regardless. There are no easy games in football anywhere. I watch a team play us and I watch a team play someone else – a lot of the times they are playing a lot harder against us.”
Sam hopes to make an impact with the team during this final run “as a bit of a creator from the side, as a go to man when we are attacking, to make chances for the strikers and make goals myself. That’s mainly what I will be and that’s what I do.”
“You know, I am not really here for like New York as a city. I am here first and foremost to progress my career. I am 27 years old. I am not coming out here at the end of my career like some players do. I am still hungry. It isn’t really about the City and other things like that. It’s more football reasons. We have a good team here. Like in training – it’s intense. We’ve got a good team and that’s what struck me most – the quality in the team.
“I’m happy man. I’m always smiling. I’m happy to be out here. I just want to get on the pitch and get going.”