West Bromwich Albion FC goalkeeper Glyn “Boaz” Myhill is listed among 40 or so notables from Modesto in Wikipedia.
Myhill is on the same list as filmmaker George Lucas, actor Jeremy Renner, Olympic champion swimmer Mark Spitz and ex-Raiders football star Lester Hayes.
Pretty good company for someone who spent only a few weeks living in the city 68 miles south of Sacramento.
In November 1982, Myhill’s father, Sean, an American, and his mother, Christine, who is Welsh, were showing relatives the sites at Yosemite National Park when she went into early labor. She was flown to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, where Myhill was born two months premature. Less than two months later, the Myhills moved to Wales.
Boaz Myhill grew up to be one of the United Kingdom’s top goalkeepers. Myhill said even though he’s been back to California “on holiday” a half-dozen times or so, that didn’t prepare him for the heat, the test he received against third-tier Republic FC or the circus atmosphere at Bonney Field on Monday.
The 90-degree days are the reason Myhill, fellow goalkeeper Ben Foster, who played for England in the 2014 World Cup, and their West Bromwich Albion FC teammates were in Sacramento this week. They’re getting in shape for the 2014-15 English Premier League season that starts next month.
“As a Brit, we live in a completely different climate,” Myhill said after Wednesday’s sweaty two-hour practice at Cosumnes River College. “I struggle through the heat, to be honest with you.”
Myhill had nine saves in Monday’s 1-0 win over Republic FC as the Baggies, who started strong and went ahead in the 13th minute on Graham Dorrans’ penalty kick, nearly wilted against Sacramento’s relentless attack in the second half. A friendly rematch is set for Friday at Bonney.
“They gave us a real run for our money,” said Foster, who watched from the sideline but wasn’t suited up. “You look at the performance Boaz put in, and he probably was the man of the match. … The football they played was really good at times.”
Myhill’s biggest challenge came in the 66th minute when Republic FC midfielder Rodrigo Lopez stole a pass from a Baggies defender and played the ball through to forward Thomas Stewart. But Myhill made a diving save in the one-on-one matchup.
Myhill didn’t mind the workout from Republic FC, which outshot West Bromwich 21-11.
“It’s brilliant for a keeper because a lot of the preseason games you spend passing the ball and not touching it again,” Myhill said. “So it was a good game to play in.”
Even the brightly lit State Fair in the background, fronted by the noisy Tower Bridge Battalion, didn’t throw him off his game.
“Just when you think you’ve seen everything in football, something else pops up,” Myhill said. “It definitely was more distracting during training because it’s a little bit relaxed – but not when you are doing your job.”
West Bromwich’s strength is its two veteran goalkeepers. Both are 31, have played nearly half their lives as professionals and have families who are tired of moving among clubs.
Last March, Myhill signed a two-year extension. This week, Foster signed a four-year deal.
Myhill, 6-foot-3, had 19 caps with the Wales Men’s National Team. While at Hull City, where he played 257 matches, he helped take the club from the fourth division to the Premier League, a rare occurrence.
Foster, 6-4, who had a stint with famed Manchester United, has eight caps as England’s backup goalkeeper and played all 90 minutes in a Group D scoreless draw with Costa Rica in England’s last World Cup match June 24 in Brazil. Foster became the first Baggies’ player to represent England in the World Cup in 44 years.
“To go to a World Cup, especially in Brazil, it was an amazing experience,” Foster said. “To get to play was just the icing on top of the cake, even though the World Cup as a whole didn’t go well for us.”
Foster and Myhill hope to help West Bromwich Albion move up in the EPL standings. The team struggled last season in just missing relegation with a 17th-place finish. But the Baggies have a new coach in Alan Irvine and have made some big-splash signings.
Foster, the starter, and Myhill, the backup, have a good relationship, not always the case among goalkeepers.
“I’ve played with guys I couldn’t stand,” Myhill admits. “But we are lucky we get on very well.”
When Irvine gave the players Tuesday off, Myhill, Foster and two other teammates drove more than three hours to Pebble Beach and teed off at 6:45 a.m.
“As a golfer, for all of us, it’s another life ambition,” Foster said. “It was without a doubt the best course we ever played. The scenery was breathtaking. The course was just like somebody went around with scissors and cut it. It was an absolute thing of beauty.”
Beautiful, too, was the 58-degree weather. It felt just like home.