After getting sacked by the club, the former US boss talks about the challenges he faced being the first American manager in the Premier League.
It was never going to be easy for the first American coach in the Premier League to gain the support he needed from both the players and fans, but Bob Bradley was ready for the challenge.
After bouncing around the globe — coaching the US and Egypt national teams along with stints in Norway and France — Bradley earned the right to attempt to break the barrier. Midway through a disappointing season, he was tasked with bringing Swansea City out of the relegation zone in October 2016.
“The team had started poorly and the takeover by American owners had angered the club’s supporters. But managing at the top level of English football was the ultimate challenge. I had worked hard to prepare for this opportunity. I had to go for it”, Bradley wrote in The Players’ Tribune.
Bradley gained eight points through his first eight games, but it wasn’t long before he drew the negative headlines that appear to have been the beginning of the end of his brief career with the Welsh side. Following two straight away losses, Bradley started to show just how much of an outsider he was in the Premier League.
Fair or not, people started to turn on the coach for using American soccer phrases.
“My postgame interview after a 3–0 loss to Middlesbrough only made matters worse,” he wrote. “I said that we needed to show more resilience ‘on the road’ (the English prefer the word away), and referred to a penalty kick as a ‘PK.’ People on social media screamed that American sports terms had no place in the Premier League.”
After a 4-1 loss to West Ham the following week on Boxing Day, the American experiment came crashing down. Bradley returned to the training ground the next day and went about his normal routine with his staff and players. Then he received a phone call.
“As they say in the Premier League, I got the sack,” he wrote.
“I failed. Failed to put my stamp on the team at Swansea. To give it a real identity. A real personality. I never managed to find the right balance between attack and defense. I couldn’t find the answers for this group to play with the commitment and passion that so many of my other teams possessed. We never found consistency or confidence.”
Bradley lasted a grand total of 85 days in the Premier League. Swansea went back to the norm, signing English manager Paul Clement.
While Bradley admits Clement has done a great job bringing the Swans four points out of relegation at the moment, he points out the fact that he didn’t have a preseason or transfer window to really put his mark on the club.
“Yes, Paul benefited from the transfer window that I never had. But that’s football,” Bradley wrote. “It can be a tough business and it’s important to respect good work. Full credit to Paul.”
Bradley’s future is now up in the air. But whether he returns to MLS, where he began his professional coaching career after working in the college ranks, or gets another opportunity in Europe remains to be seen. There is one certainty for Bradley though.
“For as much experience as I’ve had with the game all over the world, I am an American first and foremost.”