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Life at Everton From Another Perspective

Dina McBride, wife of former Loan Star Brian, describes the Goodison experience from the standpoint of an American and the wife of a Premiership footballer.

"It all happened so fast, just before Christmas. There had been talk for a long time about possible loans and transfers with Brian, so it was hard to know what to take seriously. In this case, it happened in a matter of days. When we found out the offer from Everton was serious, I knew we would never turn down the opportunity. We don’t know how many chances he’ll get to do something like this, so it wasn’t ever a question about him going. Even though I was pregnant at the time, it was still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we weren’t going to pass it up.

 

Brian and Dina McBride in the 2003 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Dina is a model for the magazine.

I wasn’t going to England until the end of January, so my daughter Ashley and I were listening on the computer when Brian played his first game against Tottenham. When he scored a goal, the next thing we knew our phone was ringing off the hook. Everybody must have been listening that morning! For him to get a chance to play right when he got over there and have success right away was really exciting. He called right after the game and was so thrilled to score, and at the same time disappointed they didn’t win. At that moment, I knew the sacrifice we had made was worth it.

 

The second week was even crazier. Even though I already knew the result, to get to watch him score two goals on television made us very proud.

We planned on me going over for a month, because I had to be home for regular checkups, ultrasounds, and other things throughout the pregnancy. I wish it could have been longer, because the hardest part of the whole experience has been the time we are apart. With the time difference, one of us always tried to call before we went to sleep or first thing in the morning.

I knew about all the publicity Brian was getting before I made my first visit to England, but to see it in person was something else. The first game I went to see at Everton was Feb. 1 against Leeds. As we arrived, there were lines of people out by the parking lot. Everybody was flagging him down, talking to him and asking for autographs. They already had made posters of him! People were pulling me aside, asking me all kinds of questions: Were we staying? Did I like it there? It was wild.

Everyone at the club went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Steve Watson’s wife came and picked me up that day, since the stadium was almost an hour away and we had no idea where we were going. She took us to the game, and introduced me to everyone. The other players’ wives asked if we wanted to get together for dinner, or have our kids play together. At Goodison Park they have a players lounge that you can visit at halftime and after the game, and the team provides nannies to take care of the kids so you can go sit in the stands and watch the game if you want. They certainly do a great job of making you feel comfortable.

While the fans in Columbus are awesome, I wasn’t prepared for the experience of a game at Everton. The fans are singing and chanting the entire game, and the noise is deafening – it’s an amazing rush. I remember how special the atmosphere was at World Cup games this past summer, and in England it felt like that every weekend.

This was my first time living overseas, and it was a really great experience, but there were definitely a lot of things to get used to. I remember the first day we were there, we were trying to keep ourselves awake to get used to the time change, so we decided to head straight to the mall. I’d look at clothes and think how cheap they were, and then I realized that once you converted from pounds to dollars it wasn’t as cheap as I thought!

I think the hardest part for me was that I was afraid to drive! I wasn’t quite ready to tackle that one. Thankfully, we lived about five minutes away from Eddie and Mari Lewis, so we spent a lot of time with them and their daughter Giselle. It was really nice for our kids to be able play together, and it made the transition to a new life much easier.

McBride scored four goals in his three months at Goodison Park, including two strikes to beat Sunderland on his home debut.

It was interesting to be on the other side as a foreigner. We were the ones getting stares because of our accents, or when we would use a word and no one knew what we were talking about. For example, when we went to restaurants we would try to order soup, and I guess they don’t call it that because we could never find it! Of course, after a week Ashley sounded like she was born there, calling me ‘mummy’ and saying ‘cheers’ instead of ‘thanks’. Everyone really got a kick out of that.

I didn’t get a chance to go to any other games than Brian’s, but it seemed like soccer was on television 24 hours a day. I watched more games than I ever have in my life! That part was really fun.

We got a chance to go to London for a weekend. It turned out to be great timing, because it was our anniversary and Valentine’s Day when he had days off. The drive down wasn’t bad, but the traffic was unbelievable. I thought I knew what traffic was like coming from Chicago, but this was the worst traffic in history. London was such a fun place to be. To be honest, we didn’t really go on any tours of the city; we spent most of the time shopping! We also had a chance to have dinner with the Kellers one night, who we hadn’t seen since the World Cup.

Since Brian has done so well, everywhere we go the question is whether or not he plans on coming home. We’ve talked about it a lot, and the main thing for us is being together as a family. With the friends we already have in England and the people we’ve met, I certainly felt like it was something we could do. For us, it always has to be the right situation for our family and the future. I’ve told Brian from day one that I would never want to be someone to stand in the way of opportunities that he’ll get in his career, and we want to be as supportive as we can. So if he wanted to do it, and he felt it was right for us, we weren’t going to say no.

It’s been a pretty amazing year, and certainly we feel blessed. For Brian professionally, with the World Cup and his success with Columbus and in England, and at home with the baby coming, we really don’t know what else could possibly happen. Through all this, when it comes to his work on the field, he’s so hard on himself. Even after he scored two goals against Sunderland, he’d say ‘I didn’t play as good as I could play,’ or ‘I need to do this better.’ Finally I would tell him ‘Hey, can’t you just be proud of yourself for a minute?’ I think he knows that he’s gotten to live out some of his dreams this year, and he knows how proud we are of him.”

 

 

© US Soccer Federation , 2003
Article appeared on the US Soccer Federation website in March