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Bob Bradley breaks the ice for American mangers in England
The Premier League managerial circle befits but a small ring of elite figures, and despite his domestic successes, Bob Bradley’s nationality had cast him as an outsider in the past.
The American manager boasts a range of managerial experiences in world football that spans the United States, Norway, France, and Egypt, yet he has been an overlooked candidate for Premier League vacancies such as the Hull City position earlier this summer.
Nevertheless, Bradley made it a goal to break the ice for American managers in England. He endured the Arab Spring and Port Said Stadium riot during his two years in charge of the Egyptian national team, and splashed around the relative backwaters of European football at Stabæk and Le Havre for another twenty-four months. Where other managers might have turned back, Bradley rolled up his sleeves, swimming against the current to earn his shot in the mainstream Premier League.
“There’s certainly a network,” Bradley explained in an interview with the Guardian last year. “There are some very good managers but also some others that aren’t very good but still manage to get jobs and opportunities.”
Finally, though, the fifty-eight-year-old’s persistence has paid off as he beat the likes of Manchester United star Ryan Giggs and Bayern Munich assistant Paul Clement to the top job at Swansea City, replacing Italian manager Francesco Guidolin. He is the first ever American manager in Europe’s top four leagues, joining a small group of American exports currently playing across the pond.
Now that Bradley has a foot in the door, the hope is that he can prop it open for future American managers to come.
“When you’re an American, earning respect and getting your foot in the door is hard, whether you’re a player or a coach,” he mused in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2014. “I feel strongly that with everything I’ve done, if I were German, Dutch, Spanish, French or Italian, I’d have had many opportunities in Europe.”
Bradley’s journey from the bottom of the managerial ladder to the top embodies both his talents and his persistence, having risen from the college game thirty years ago. His coaching career started at Ohio University and Princeton in the 1980’s, and then transitioned into Major League Soccer when the league began in 1996. After winning the MLS Cup in 1998 and the US Open Cup on two occasions, he landed a job coaching the United States Under-20 national team.
Bradley then took over the United States Men’s National Team following the team’s disappointing showing at the 2006 World Cup and led the team to the Confederations Cup final in 2009 and the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
He was relieved of his duties following the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and hoped to use the USMNT experience as a platform to get into the European game. The task quite likely took longer than he had expected.
“When I was in Egypt, after [the Port Said Stadium riot] people asked me: ‘Why are you still here? Why didn’t you leave?’ Then I went to Norway, to this small team, and people would say, ‘Why did you come?’” he told the New York Times earlier this year.
“What it amounts to is, this part of you — on the inside — wants to show people what you can do. You want to prove yourself. You want a chance.”