Chris Birchall

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For the Scottish rugby league player, see Chris Birchall (rugby league).
Chris Birchall
Birchall.JPG
Birchall training for the Galaxy (October 2011).
Personal information
Full name Christopher Birchall[1]
Date of birth (1984-05-05) 5 May 1984 (age 30)[1]
Place of birth Stafford, England[1]
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)[1]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Port Vale
Number 7
Youth career
1993–2001 Port Vale
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2001–2006 Port Vale 78 (7)
2006–2009 Coventry City 29 (2)
2007 St. Mirren (loan) 9 (0)
2008 Carlisle United (loan) 2 (0)
2009 Brighton & Hove Albion 9 (0)
2009–2011 Los Angeles Galaxy 66 (1)
2012 Columbus Crew 18 (1)
2013– Port Vale 52 (3)
National team
2005–2013 Trinidad and Tobago 43 (4)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 21 December 2014.
† Appearances (Goals).

Christopher "Chris" Birchall CM (born 5 May 1984) is a professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for League One side Port Vale.

Forging his career with local club Port Vale, he earned worldwide recognition by playing at the 2006 FIFA World Cup for Trinidad and Tobago – the country of his mother's birth. His exploits led to a move up the leagues to Coventry City later that year. After short loan spells with Scottish side St. Mirren and Carlisle United, he moved on to Brighton & Hove Albion. In 2009 he moved to the United States to sign with MLS club Los Angeles Galaxy. Whilst with the Galaxy, the club were crowned Major League Soccer Western Conference champions in 2009 and 2011, and also captured a Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup double in 2011. He joined Columbus Crew for a six-month spell in May 2012. He rejoined Port Vale in January 2013, and helped the club to secure promotion out of League Two in 2012–13.

Club career[edit]

Port Vale[edit]

Birchall attended Alleyne's High School in Stone, Staffordshire,[2] and started his career with Port Vale, having been associated with the Burslem based club since the age of nine. He made his debut under Brian Horton on 12 September 2001, replacing Neil Brisco 79 minutes into a 2–0 Second Round exit of the League Cup at Charlton Athletic's The Valley stadium. On 20 April 2002 he made his league debut, again replacing Brisco, this time in a 1–0 defeat by Brighton at Vale Park.

"I came up through the ranks at Port Vale from the age of 8 until I left the club at 22. I owe all the coaching to them, they nurtured me and really looked after me and had confidence in me."

—Birchall in an interview with socawarriors.net in July 2010.[3]

He made two Second Division appearances in 2002–03, both away defeats. The teenager earned his first start on 18 October 2003, he was taken off at half-time for Ian Armstrong, as he watched his teammates lose 5–1 at home to Plymouth Argyle. He also played in both games of the club's First Round FA Cup struggle over minnows Ford United. In all he made thirteen appearances in 2003–04. It was throughout the 2004–05 campaign that Birchall showed his potential, scoring seven goals in 39 games. His first senior goal was a 76th minute winner against Swindon Town on 19 October.[4] He also scored a brace against Tranmere Rovers on 7 December in a 3–1 home win.[5] At the end of the season he was voted the Young Player of the Year.[6] Birchall scored twice in 32 appearances in the 2005–06 season. However one of them, a 22nd minute winner over Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup, was enough to book the Vale a Third Round encounter with Doncaster Rovers,[7] which left the club one win away from a lucrative encounter with Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Coventry City[edit]

In July 2006, with the World Cup still in progress, Martin Foyle denied reports that his young midfielder would be exiting Vale Park, specifically for Ipswich Town.[8] The next month Birchall was snapped up by Micky Adams' Coventry City for a fee of £300,000 (rising to £325,000 with bonuses), signing a three-year deal with the "Sky Blues".[9] He scored his first "Sky Blues" goal against Norwich City with a 20-yard (18 m) low drive.[10] He made 28 appearances in the second tier that season.

In August 2007, Birchall signed with St Mirren on loan until January 2008.[11] However he returned to Coventry in early December, after suffering a hamstring injury.[12] He only played just two games for the "Sky Blues" following his return. Not a part of Chris Coleman's plans for 2008–09, John Ward of Carlisle United expressed an interest in August 2008,[13] and had admitted speaking to the player's agent.[14] He had also been linked with a return on loan to his former club, Port Vale.[15] In November, Birchall signed for Carlisle on loan until the end of the year,[16] having taken advice from teammate Keiren Westwood.[17] When returning to Coventry, he agreed to have his contract terminated by mutual consent.[18] The midfielder also opted not to return to Carlisle, after negotiations with an unnamed American club.[19]

Brighton & Hove Albion[edit]

In January 2009, Birchall joined League One side Brighton & Hove Albion on an initial week-trial with a view to earning a contract.[20] He later signed a contract until the end of the season,[21] teaming up with his old Coventry boss Micky Adams.[22] Three months later Brighton chairman Dick Knight blocked a move to Major League Soccer club Los Angeles Galaxy, telling Birchall he would not be allowed to leave the club on a free transfer.[23] Despite this setback, Birchall seemed set on a move to the American franchise.[24] He was freed from Brighton in May 2009 – along with thirteen other professionals.[25] Later that month Birchall agreed a four-year contract with the LA Galaxy.[26]

Los Angeles Galaxy[edit]

He made his official MLS debut on 16 July 2009, replacing David Beckham as a substitute 70 minutes into a game against the New York Red Bulls. He played a further eight games for Bruce Arena's side in 2009, as Galaxy topped the Conference, only to lose the MLS Cup final after a penalty shootout defeat to Real Salt Lake. Birchall started the game, but was substituted on the 79th minute for Chris Klein. He made 25 appearances in 2010, helping his team to again top the Western Conference table. He then played in the Conference Finals, where Galaxy were defeated by FC Dallas. He also played in the CONCACAF Champions League, as Galaxy were knocked out at the preliminary stage after capitulating to the Puerto Rico Islanders at The Home Depot Center.

Birchall scored his first MLS season goal against Toronto FC on 11 June 2011 in the second minute of the game; he was assisted by Miguel Pedro López. During the off-season he returned to Vale Park for fitness training.[27] He did not rule out a return to Port Vale in the future, though admitted that he was enjoying himself in LA, having made friends with Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Williams.[28] Galaxy won a treble in 2011, being crowned Supporters' Shield and Conference champions, as well as MLS Cup winners. Birchall came off the bench in the cup final, replacing Adam Cristman on 57 minutes, as Galaxy beat Houston Dynamo 1–0 thanks to a Landon Donovan goal.[29]

On 23 January 2012, Arena stated that "There hasn’t been a decision made on him [Birchall]. Originally he wanted go back to England, so we obviously agreed to that and didn't renew his option. He was looking to explore opportunities in England. Perhaps he'll want to come back."[30] He then returned to Burslem to train with Port Vale, and also raised the possibility of playing for the cash-stricken club for free whilst he weighed up his options elsewhere;[31] he said he intended to do this as he owed his career to both the club and to the manager, Micky Adams.[32] Adams said that he was hopeful of bringing Birchall back to Vale Park but said that "I smiled to myself when I saw he was playing for free, because you don't get anything for free in football."[33] Birchall was due to sign a month-to-month contract with the club in February 2012,[34] having turned out in a reserve team game.[35] However, the club were hit with a transfer embargo by the Football League before any contract was signed.[36] At the end of March, he was reported to have signed with Northwich Victoria of the Northern Premier League Premier Division, who were managed by Martin Foyle, his former manager at Vale;[37] however Birchall denied the story on his Twitter account.

Columbus Crew[edit]

He elected to stay in the MLS in May 2012, after signing an unspecified "multi-year contract" with the Columbus Crew.[38] Columbus Crew community fan-site Massive Report stated that "Birchall's performances were notable for their high energy, but consistent lack of polish as he tended to cede possession quite a bit" and also reported that the player was "unhappy with his lack of playing time during a September stretch where he didn't see the field for three straight games".[39] Head coach Robert Warzycha elected to decline his contract option in December 2012.[40]

Return to Port Vale[edit]

On 3 January 2013, after a month of training at Vale Park, Birchall signed a contract at former club Port Vale lasting until the end of the 2012–13 season.[41] As well representing a return to his first club, it was also the third time that he would be signed by manager Micky Adams.[42] He scored his first goal of his second spell on 5 April with a 25 yard shot in a 7–1 win over promotion rivals Burton Albion.[43] Vale were promoted at the end of the season, and Birchall agreed to a new one-year contract in the summer.[44]

Birchall remained an important first team player during the 2013–14 season, and made 17 starts and 15 substitute appearances as the club posted a ninth place finish in League One.[45] He signed a new one-year contract in the summer.[46]

He started the 2014–15 season on the right side of midfield, after impressing in pre-season training.[47]

International career[edit]

Although born in England, Birchall has represented Trinidad and Tobago at international level. He is eligible for that country because his mother was born in Port of Spain.[48]

Birchall's agent was spreading word around that he could in fact play for his mother's homeland. He was first made aware of the interest in him by Trinidad & Tobago international central defender Dennis Lawrence, who walked over to him during a game between Port Vale and Wrexham (Lawrence's club at the time). Lawrence enquired if he was indeed eligible to play for the "Soca Warriors" by saying "I hear you've got some 'Trini' blood in you?".[49] Lawrence then passed Birchall's contact details onto the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, and Birchall was called up to the full Trinidad & Tobago squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico, following a couple of friendlies against Bermuda. After making his debut for the national side, it was widely reported that Birchall was the first white player to represent the country in sixty years.[50] However current Trinidad coach Stephen Hart is white and represented Trinidad & Tobago in 1980. The "Prince of Port-of-Spain", West Indies cricketer Brian Lara, was also credited for helping the TTFA hear about Birchall after Ashley Giles made a comment about having some West Indian blood in his family. When asked by the press in Trinidad and Tobago why he qualified to play for them he replied "Me mum". This memorable response gave rise to his "Soca Warrior" nickname, ‘Me Mum’.

"At the time he joined the team he was the odd guy out but we all welcome him with open arms and he's been very much a key player to our team. He's come in and done a fantastic job and has become an influential player.

—Fellow countryman Dwight Yorke on Birchall.[51]

Undoubtedly his most important contribution to the "Soca Warriors" came on 12 November 2005, in their home (first) leg of their 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off against Bahrain. Bahrain's Salman Isa had scored in the 72nd minute and were poised to take a 1–0 lead back home for the second leg, but five minutes later, Birchall fired in a stunning goal from well outside the penalty area to equalise. The "Soca Warriors" went on to win the return leg of the play-off in Bahrain 1–0 (on a goal from Lawrence) and advance to their first ever World Cup finals. Along with goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, Birchall was the only member of the World Cup squad to have been born in England, with the remaining members all having been born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.

In the World Cup he played all three of the country's games; against Sweden, England and Paraguay. Playing against the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney was a particularly special moment for the player who had spent his life living in England.

Following their return from the 2006 World Cup, each member of the Trinidad and Tobago national team was awarded the country's second highest honour, the Chaconia Medal in gold, plus TT$1,000,000 (about £87,500 (one quarter in cash, the rest in unit trusts)). He is therefore entitled to suffix his name "C.M." if he wishes.[52] "Soca Warrior" fans have also penned a rap song in his honour.[53]

He fell out of the first team picture in November 2011, before earning a recall under new boss Hutson Charles in March 2013.[54] However he considered his retirement from the international scene in July 2013, having featured on the bench in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.[55]

"Never did I think I would be accepted in the manner I was, the support I have received over the years has been phenomenal and I think it was made easier due to my fighting spirit and hard attitude on the pitch. It is hard to call it a day but if I have left just one historic memory with the fans then I have achieved much more than I ever dreamed imaginable with the team. I have always tried to give 100 per cent on the pitch, give my all for the nation whenever called upon and wear the shirt with pride as I knew how many people would die for my opportunity."

—Birchall announced his retirement from international football in August 2013.[56]

Personal life[edit]

In 2006, Birchall and Stoke City star Andy Wilkinson invested £200,000 into Zenn Club, a nightclub in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. However in July 2008 the club was closed due to debts. The club later re-opened under new management.[57] In July 2007, it was reported that Birchall had been dating media personality Jodie Marsh for a brief time.[58]

Chris and Lucy Mulroy had their son Ashley Edward Birchall on 28 April 2009.

Birchall is affectionately known as 'Me Mum' by the Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors fans. This is because Birchall's response to a question about his right to play for Trinidad and Tobago was simply "me mum".

Statistics[edit]

Club level[edit]

Season Club Division League National Cup League Cup Other[59] Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
2001–02[60] Port Vale Second Division 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0
2002–03[61] 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
2003–04[62] 10 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 13 0
2004–05[63] League One 34 6 2 0 1 0 2 1 39 7
2005–06[64] 31 1 3 1 1 0 0 0 35 2
Total 78 7 8 1 3 0 2 1 91 9
2006–07[65] Coventry City Championship 28 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 30 2
2007–08[66] 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 0
2007–08[66] St. Mirren (loan) SPL 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 0
2008–09[67] Carlisle United (loan) League One 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Total 29 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 33 2
2008–09[67] Brighton & Hove Albion League One 9 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 10 0
Total 9 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 10 0
2009[68] Los Angeles Galaxy MLS 11 0 0 0 0 0 11 0
2010[69][70][71] 28 0 1 0 1 0 30 0
2011[72][73][74] 27 1 1 0 4 0 32 1
Total 66 1 2 0 5 0 73 1
2012 Columbus Crew MLS 18 1 0 0 0 0 18 1
Total 18 1 0 0 0 0 18 1
2012–13[75] Port Vale League Two 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 11 1
2013–14[76] League One 27 1 3 1 0 0 2 0 32 2
2014–15[77] 14 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 17 1
Total 52 3 4 1 1 0 3 0 60 4
Career total 263 14 16 2 6 0 11 1 296 17

International level[edit]

Trinidad and Tobago's goal tally first.

International appearances and goals
# Date Venue Opponent Result Competition Goal
2005
01 (00) 25 May Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Bermuda 4–0 Friendly 0
02 (00) 27 May Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella  Bermuda 1–0 Friendly 0
03 (00) 4 June Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Panama 2–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
04 (00) 8 June Estadio Universitario, Monterrey  Mexico 0–2 World Cup Qualifier 0
05 (01) 6 July Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida  Honduras 1–1 CONCACAF Gold Cup 1
06 (01) 9 July Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida  Panama 2–2 CONCACAF Gold Cup 0
07 (01) 11 July Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida  Colombia 0–2 CONCACAF Gold Cup 0
08 (01) 17 August Rentschler Field, Hartford, Connecticut  United States 0–1 World Cup Qualifier 0
09 (01) 3 September Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Guatemala 3–2 World Cup Qualifier 0
10 (01) 7 September Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, San José  Costa Rica 0–2 World Cup Qualifier 0
11 (01) 8 October Estadio Rommel Fernández, Panama City  Panama 1–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
12 (01) 12 October Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Mexico 2–1 World Cup Qualifier 0
13 (02) 12 November Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Bahrain 1–1 World Cup Qualifier 1
14 (02) 16 November Bahrain National Stadium, Riffa  Bahrain 1–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
2006
15 (02) 28 February Loftus Road, London  Iceland 2–0 Friendly 0
16 (02) 10 May Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Peru 1–1 Friendly 0
17 (02) 27 May UPC-Arena, Graz  Wales 1–2 Friendly 0
18 (03) 31 May Arena Petrol, Celje  Slovenia 1–3 Friendly 1
19 (03) 3 June Generali Arena, Prague  Czech Republic 0–3 Friendly 0
20 (03) 10 June Westfalenstadion, Dortmund  Sweden 0–0 FIFA World Cup 0
21 (03) 15 June Frankenstadion, Nuremberg  England 0–2 FIFA World Cup 0
22 (03) 20 June Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern  Paraguay 0–2 FIFA World Cup 0
23 (04) 7 October Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 5–0 Friendly 1
24 (04) 11 October Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Panama 2–1 Friendly 0
25 (04) 15 November Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna  Austria 1–4 Friendly 0
2008
26 (04) 30 July Marvin Lee Stadium, Tunapuna  Haiti 2–0 Friendly 0
27 (04) 20 August Estadio Pedro Marrero, Havana  Cuba 3–1 World Cup Qualifier 0
28 (04) 8 October Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Dominican Republic 9–0 Friendly 0
29 (04) 11 October Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala City  Guatemala 0–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
30 (04) 15 October Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  United States 2–1 World Cup Qualifier 0
31 (04) 19 November Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Cuba 3–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
2009
32 (04) 11 February Estadio Cuscatlán, San Salvador  El Salvador 2–2 World Cup Qualifier 0
33 (04) 1 April LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee  United States 0–3 World Cup Qualifier 0
34 (04) 6 June Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet  Costa Rica 2–3 World Cup Qualifier 0
35 (04) 10 June Estadio Azteca, Mexico City  Mexico 1–2 World Cup Qualifier 0
36 (04) 12 August Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  El Salvador 1–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
2011
37 (04) 2 September Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain  Bermuda 1–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
38 (04) 6 September Barbados National Stadium, Bridgetown  Barbados 2–0 World Cup Qualifier 0
39 (04) 11 November Providence Stadium, Providence  Guyana 1–2 World Cup Qualifier 0
2013
40 (04) 23 March FFB Stadium, Belmopan  Belize 0–0 Friendly 0
41 (04) 26 March Estadio Nacional, Lima  Peru 0–3 Friendly 0
42 (04) 4 June Arena Națională, Bucharest  Romania 0–4 Friendly 0
43 (04) 20 July Georgia Dome, Atlanta  Mexico 0–1 Gold Cup 0

Honours[edit]

Individual Awards
with Los Angeles Galaxy
with Port Vale

References[edit]

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  59. ^ Includes other competitive competitions, including the Football League Trophy and the CONCACAF Champions League.
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  76. ^ "Games played by Chris Birchall in 2013/2014". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  77. ^ "Games played by Chris Birchall in 2014/2015". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 

External links[edit]