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Aug 16, 2012

Ream's honeymoon in Lancashire

It was not, it is safe to say, the normal way to begin a marriage. Rather than heading for a dream destination on honeymoon, Tim Ream and his new bride had a rapid change of plans. So long, Tahiti; hello, Bolton. Farewell, romance; hello, relegation battle. "Neither one of us were thrilled about it," Ream tells ESPN. "It was just a great opportunity but rough timing with the wedding and having the honeymoon cancelled. I like to think she is past it now and we have moved on."

Even their wedding planning was interrupted by the need for career advice, with USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann urging him to cross the Atlantic. Such is the fast-changing world of Ream, whose last three years have been a "whirlwind" taking him from university and amateur football to, briefly, the most high-profile league in the world.

Reversing the journey many an immigrant has made over the past four centuries, he left America seeking fame and fortune. A native of St Louis, he spends rather less time near Route 66 these days than the less famous A666, the road from Bolton to Blackburn. Having been a New York Red Bull before his £2.5 million January transfer, he left a city known worldwide for the Statue of Liberty for a town with a rather less illustrious tourist attraction, a statue of local steeplejack Fred Dibnah.

But with one major caveat, he has enjoyed Lancastrian life. "Other than being relegated, it's been pretty good," Ream says. "Settling in and coming in after a few weeks and being able to start games pretty much right away is something I really wanted to do." He soon became a fixture in the Bolton team, though not before a surprise, and relatively successful, outing in midfield against the eventual champions. "To have to do it against a team like Manchester City was definitely a tough game for me," he recalled.

Less daunting opponents await this season. Ream's ever-changing world, after a belated honeymoon in Tahiti, incorporates a new season in a new division. "I came in wanting to play in the Premier League and unfortunately we are down in the Championship," he said. "It is a different animal. There are different aspects that come to the forefront now. It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment for me but it has been an adjustment coming here. I have been about adjustments since turning pro in 2010."

His passage to professional football has been, by the standards of the English game, an unusual one. University-educated footballers tend to be a rarity. Ream, however, graduated from St Louis University and is the product of what he terms "a very Americanised" system. After representing SLU and Chicago Fire Premier, he was drafted in January 2010.

"It's a strange time. You go to what they call a combine and it's a three-day event where you play games with 64 other university players from around the country that you have probably never met so it's a tough situation. A week later, you are waiting for your name to be called by the 18 or 19 teams there is. Even then, you are not guaranteed a contract."

Ream was the 18th pick and, perhaps more significantly, was selected by one of Major League Soccer's glamour clubs, New York. The new professional was suddenly a team-mate of Thierry Henry. "You can't get much better than learning from Thierry on a day-to-day basis," he says. "He's definitely helped me. You get a feel for what it is like to play at the top level."

He was also fast-tracked into the USA team by coach Bob Bradley. International call-ups have been fewer since Klinsmann took over but Ream said: "He is very good at staying in touch and making sure you are doing the right things. I definitely know he is paying close attention." He consulted the German before joining Bolton, adding: "He wants just about all the guys who are in the national team picture to move overseas because that's where the top players go. He was definitely supportive."

His hope now is that operating in England's second tier does not count against him as he aims to realise his long-term goal of playing in the 2014 World Cup. "I don't think it is imperative to play in the Premier League. The way he [Klinsmann] looks at it, he just wants guys playing first-team football. The Championship is still a quality league."

With fellow American Stuart Holden also at the Reebok Stadium, there is a distinct American influence at Bolton. "We have quality all over the field," Ream said. It is a reason why he hopes Bolton's exile in the Championship will be a one-season affair. "With the players we have got, we are definitely shooting for the first time. We are all hungry to get back up there and if we don't it will be disappointing." After the sacrifices he made to join Bolton, this particular Wanderer is hoping his next journey will be back the Premier League.

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