LOS ANGELES, Oct 4, 2016 (BSS/AFP) – If self-belief was any guarantee of footballing success, Swansea may have picked a winner in appointing Bob Bradley as their new boss.
The 58-year-old became the first American ever to be appointed as head coach of a team in one of Europe’s top five leagues on Monday when he was named to take over from the sacked Francesco Guidolin at the English Premier League side.
For Bradley, the appointment is the opportunity he has long craved to prove he is capable of mixing it at the highest level after a career which has included spells as the coach of both the USA and Egypt as well as stints in Major League Soccer, Norway and France.
In an interview with Sirius XM radio earlier this year, Bradley maintained that despite his relatively modest CV, he believes he is in the same sort of bracket as some of the leading coaches in world football.
“When I have a chance to observe different managers, the ones that do good work, I mention (Mauricio) Pochettino, (Jurgen) Klopp, [Thomas] Tuchel that took over for Klopp at Dortmund, he’s a fantastic young manager,” Bradley said.
“We haven’t even talked about the (Pep) Guardiolas and the (Carlo) Ancelottis. But I’ll tell you what, maybe I’m stupid, but I think I’m a manager in and around that level.
“I’m not saying I’m better than these guys — I haven’t had those types of opportunities — but I think people that have played for me have always felt that the experience in the team was different, that training was challenging, that there were a lot of things done to help them become better players and better people.”
– Globe-trotting career –
Bradley, who did not play professionally, has endured highs and lows during a globe-trotting coaching career.
He took the USA into the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup, qualifying from the first round ahead of England. Bradley was fired from the US job in 2011 after a disappointing defeat to Mexico in the final of the Gold Cup, ultimately paying the price for the perception that his team had stagnated under his reign.
The Princeton graduate was not out of work for long however, taking over as coach of Egypt in 2011. He earned respect for opting to continue to live in Cairo during the unrest in the years that followed the country’s revolution, eyes fixed firmly on the prize of helping the Pharaohs reach the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
Ultimately though, Bradley’s reign ended in disappointment, his team soundly beaten 7-3 on aggregate in their play-off with Ghana.
Bradley returned to club football after that setback, spending a year with Norwegian side Stabaek and helping them qualify for the Europa League after securing a third place finish. In 2015, Bradley headed to France, and came within a whisker of gaining promotion to Ligue 1 with second tier side Le Havre.
Le Havre just missed out on a place in the topflight after a wild final day of the season, when his team won 5-0 but fell one goal short of supplanting Metz for the final promotion spot.
Perhaps understandably, Bradley’s appointment has so far failed to capture the imagination of Swansea fans.
– Shrewd footballing mind –
Announcement of his appointment on the club’s Twitter feed on Monday drew howls of anguish from supporters, many of whom expressed anger at the summary dismissal of Guidolin by the club’s new American owners after only nine months.
Those who have worked with Bradley, however, speak of a shrewd footballing mind who would have been granted a job in one of Europe’s top leagues before had it not been for his nationality.
“I am 100 percent convinced if he wasn’t American he would have got a big job somewhere,” Le Havre assistant Pierre Barrieu told the New York Times in January. “There is this US tag on his back.”
Other observers are less sure.
Gary Lineker, the former England captain turned broadcaster, was among many who questioned the appointment.
“As gambles go, this is right up there,” Lineker wrote on Twitter.