American stigma: Bob Bradley unfairly vilified at Swansea

8 Comments

Simply put, Bob Bradley was up against it from the start.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Bradley’s first statement

When he became the first-ever American coach in the Premier League on Oct. 3, Bradley, without wanting to be, became the ambassador for U.S. soccer in the UK and in his first press conference he was visibly annoyed when asked about becoming the first U.S. coach in the PL.

Overall, you can argue that heaped extra pressure on his shoulders and quite simply (apart from the first few weeks when you heard “that Bob Bradley, he’s a nice bloke”) he was never accepted with open arms in the British soccer community. It was as if he wasn’t worthy of being in charge of a Premier League team and there was no respect for American soccer.

Bradley, and other American coaches and players, have always come up against that stigma in Europe. I spoke about it with him at length back in 2014 in Norway. That’s the reason he had to jump from a tiny Norwegian team he turned into title challengers to a French second division club before Swansea “took a gamble” on him as most British pundits put it.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Bradley’s first words as Swans manager

Despite the results on the pitch, which he accepts weren’t good enough, throughout his 11-game spell in charge of Swansea City (which yielded two wins, seven defeats and just eight points) he was up against vocal support from his own fans against the new American owners in place since the summer.

That ill-feeling morphed into fans turning on Bradley and he was lumped into the disdain towards owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien. The former U.S. national team coach very quickly became a scapegoat. Ask yourself if the same would’ve happened if a British manager, or Italian manager, would have had the same results he did. Seriously. Imagine in a few years the NFL puts a team in London and has an English coach. How would an English American Football coach, with an English accent, be treated if he was given a job in the NFL?

In the defeat against West Ham, his final game in charge, chants of “we want Bradley out” emerged from some sections of the home fans. The tide had turned incredibly quickly. It didn’t take much as fans jumped on the bandwagon.

[ LISTEN: The 2 Robbies special on Bradley ]

Bradley was always having to defend himself for his use of American soccer phrases in press conferences (even if they were few and far between) and pundits in the UK spoke about not being able to take him seriously, while others completely dismissed his credentials because he was American. The whole idea that the U.S. is somehow an inferior soccer nation seemed to grow stronger. There are managers from France, Spain, Italy and Germany in the PL but none of them have to justify why they’re in the league. Bradley is 58 years old and had put in the hard graft to get to this point. He deserved his chance in the PL, based on his credentials alone, a long time ago.

Speaking to talkSPORT radio in the UK following his firing, Bradley had a message for those who questioned him simply because of where he comes from and how he talks.

“I think I earned respect from inside the dressing the room every day,” Bradley said. “The media… the media has different agendas. There are some very good pundits who understand the game and write through experience. Then there’s others that want headlines. I understand that when you come in from the outside, especially as an American with American owners, there are going to be people who look to take shots. I don’t think that affects who I am and it doesn’t affect my work. I never carried any of that in front of the team. I couldn’t care less.”

Even if Bradley couldn’t care less, him being an American was a big deal in England and Wales.

Soccer AM, a Saturday morning TV show on Sky Sports in England, poked fun at Bradley from the day he was appointed with satirical videos (see below) commonplace throughout his time in the Premier League. TalkSPORT radio hosts nicknamed him “BobCat Bob” and churned out American accents on cue. There are many other examples too, as the Daily Mail also pointed towards Bradley wearing a $50 watch, compared to Jose Mourinho’s $32,000 watch, as perhaps a reason he’s “time ran out” in the PL.

Following his firing, Bradley was asked if it would now be more difficult for American coaches to get chances to manage in the Premier League and the UK.

“It’s possible, but I think it’s sad and ridiculous if that’s the case,” Bradley told BBC Radio Wales.

I’m an Englishman who has been educated and has lived in the U.S. for most of the last decade. I have American family, friends and a close affinity for the nation, plus have now been lucky enough to be involved in the American soccer community for a long time. But I’m proudly British.

Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed at the way some of the British media, and general public, has reacted towards Bradley since he arrived at Swansea.

I’ve seen it firsthand from living in London. At times the attitude towards Bradley has been borderline xenophobic.

Below are just a few of the many messages I received from Swansea’s fans for stating on Twitter that I didn’t agree with Bradley’s dismissal.

I understand that ultimately the results on the pitch weren’t good enough for Swansea’s owners, but it’s unlikely that Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho or even greats such as Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger would’ve been able to turn the Swans’ sinking ship around in just 11 games. What did they expect?

As many have pointed out, Swansea’s problems have been 12 months in the making.

Ever since Garry Monk was fired and then Francesco Guidolin was halfheartedly appointed they’ve been in trouble. Add in selling Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew in the summer and not properly replacing them and there are huge issues throughout the club as long-term chairman Hew Jenkins is trying to save them with the American owners trying hard not to interfere but also having just enough of a say.

Bradley was handed a squad woefully weak in defense and lacking in confidence. He wasn’t given a transfer window and he wasn’t given time to stamp his authority on the club.

“I’m a little pissed off,” Bradley told talkSPORT radio. “I’m a little bit frustrated because every place I’ve been I feel I have been able to put my stamp on a team, in terms of the mentality, in terms of the football, tactics. I knew when I arrived in Swansea, in the short term the most difficult thing was just to secure points. Any new football ideas needed to be introduced very gradually. What we needed more than anything was to do well enough with points that we had a little bit of a platform to try to now make the team play more of the way we wanted. I’m disappointed in myself that in the short run I couldn’t make that happen.”

The New Jersey native admits the rub of the green was against his team and the nature of the heavy defeats against West Ham, Middlesbrough, West Brom and Tottenham were not helpful in sealing his fate.

Yet, there’s on overriding sense that he was treated unfairly. Other Premier League managers have since said as much with Hull City’a Mike Phelan not happy at all.

“I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Bob because what on earth can you be expected to achieve in the short space of time he has been given at Swansea?” Phelan said. “Every manager needs a decent crack at it. And that means being given a proper opportunity and the right amount of time to bring his message to the table and get his ideas across.

“All too often these days, managers don’t get the chance to build something good at a club. And Bob has suffered on that score alright. I have got to know Bob pretty well. We speak a lot, and it’s clear he has a good knowledge of the game built up over many years of experience. He is a good guy with good ideas on the game and a good ethic. It’s sad what has happened to him.”

Slaven Bilic, West Ham’s boss, had a drink with Bradley in his office at the Liberty Stadium following their 4-1 win at Swansea on Boxing Day. He was asked on Thursday if Bradley had enough time to turn things around.

“No, he didn’t,” Bilic said. “It was just a short space of time. You basically depend on luck, people are expecting you to do something in a couple of months, and that’s not with the preseason. I know he [Bradley] is a good manager, he’s got a good CV, he’s hard-working and he believes in himself. I saw them play with confidence in those games, which is hard, when you are down. To change so many managers in two years, if we are talking about Swansea, for me it is not the solution… We spoke after the game in his office and of course his whole life is in football. He was not shocked but disappointed, and so was I.”

Bradley was disappointed with himself. Others were disappointed he was given such little time. I’m disappointed that he wasn’t judged solely on his quality as a coach.

If anyone says that’s the case and the eventual fan vitriol towards Bradley was only because of the performances on the pitch and nothing to do with him being the first-ever American coach in England’s top-flight, I’d have a tough time believing them.

Why Antoine Griezmann is exactly what Man United need

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JULY 07:  Antoine Griezmann of France celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA EURO semi final match between Germany and France at Stade Velodrome on July 7, 2016 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Multiple reports are linking Manchester United with a summer move for Antoine Griezmann.

Do they need him? Yes. Yes they do.

[ MORE: Costa back for Chelsea ]

An incredible stat emerged at the weekend which stated that United has the worst “big chance” conversion rate in the whole of the Premier League. Stats company Opta state that United have had 37 big chances (this stat is described as “a situation where a player should be reasonably expected to score”) this season, converting just 12 of them at a ratio of 32.43 percent.

The Independent claims that United are willing to pay Griezmann’s release clause of $106 million to sign him from Atletico Madrid and the French international said back in November that he would like to link up with his international teammate Paul Pogba.

Seems straightforward enough…

There is, however, a complication surrounding any deal as Atletico currently have a transfer ban and if their appeal falls through then the Spanish club won’t be able to buy or sell any players in the summer.

For United, 25-year-old Griezmann would be the major arrival at Old Trafford this summer and the report also suggests that Mourinho is eager to offload Luke Shaw this offseason, plus Memphis Depay will leave in January as Lyon’s pursuit continues.

Back to Griezmann though, and it is reported that United have been pursuing the diminutive striker since the summer when he stole the show at EURO 2016 as the top goalscorer in the tournament which saw the host nation France lose in the final to Portugal.

On paper, Griezmann would be a phenomenal buy for United. He is exactly what they’ve been missing this season.

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10: Antoine Griezmann (L) and Paul Pogba (R) of France shows their dejection after their team's 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Yes, Zlatan has been ruthless in recent weeks — 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions says as much — but he is 35 years old and can’t be expected to go on forever. He has also had bad moments in front of goal this season and when you look around United’s squad they have raw young talents in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but not much else, and certainly no clinical strikers like Griezmann.

When I think of United, I think of a team creating copious amounts of chances and with their direct play under Mourinho they have certainly missed plenty of “big chances” this season, dropping points after failing to finish teams off and drawing many games they should have won.

If Griezmann was at United this season he’d probably be leading the PL in goals scored. I’m sure of it. He is of the same ilk as a Javier Hernandez or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a lightning quick poacher who is cool in the box. Yet, Griezmann also offers more with his pace and creativity and that’s why United should break the bank to sign him this summer.

This season Griezmann has scored 12 goals in 25 appearance for an Atletico side battling back from adversity to position themselves in the La Liga title race once again. Over the course of his two-and-a-half seasons at the Vicente Calderon he has now scored 69 goals in 132 games in all competitions. Every step up he has made the striker has done it with ease.

For United to become title contenders and get back to the upper echeleons of Europe, Mourinho needs a predator in the box. Zlatan and Wayne Rooney are getting on and youngsters Martial and Rashford will take time to develop. With the likes of Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting chances on a plate for those in front of them, United’s fans must be salivating at the thought of seeing Griezmann in a red shirt.

If United go out and buy Griezmann this summer it will be yet another huge statement in their intent to be back among the elite.

USWNT star O’Reilly signs for Arsenal

BIRMINGHAM, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Heather O'Reilly #9 of the United States of America reacts after scoring a goal against Haiti during the US Women's 2015 World Cup victory tour match at Legion Field on September 20, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former U.S. women’s national team star Heather O’Reilly has completed her move to Arsenal Ladies.

[ MORE: Messi talks about future ]

O’Reilly, 32, is the eighth-highest capped player in USWNT history and retired from the national team in September 2016. She was an integral part of the team which won the 2015 World Cup in Canada, plus she has three Olympic gold medals from the 2004 games in Athens, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.

The midfielder scored 47 goals in 231 appearances for the USWNT, while she has also played for the Boston Breakers and most recently the Kansas City Stars in the NWSL.

Speaking about signing for the FA Women’s Super League powerhouse, O’Reilly was delighted to be moving to London.

“Having come over to Arsenal last year to train, I was very impressed with the club,” O’Reilly said. “The facilities are world class and they have a tradition of excellence at the club that I wanted to be a part of, I’m very happy to be here.”

The schedules for the 2017-18 season in both the WSL 1 and 2 were released last week and the opening weekend of the season is on Apr. 22 when O’Reilly’s Arsenal play Notts County.

O’Reilly joins USWNT winger Crystal Dunn in the WSL 1, as she plays for Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea.

Report: Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Antonio Conte agree truce

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates victory with Diego Costa after the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Chelsea at Riverside Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The feud is over. For now.

[ MORE: New rules stop Costa move

After Diego Costa was left out of Chelsea’s traveling squad for the win at Leicester City last weekend, he has been training on his own amid reports of a back injury which his manager Antonio Conte

It seems very likely that this situation was about much more than a back injury as Costa and Conte reportedly had a bust-up on the training ground, while links surrounding a big-money move to China continue as Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, was seen visiting owners of Chinese Super League clubs last week.

A report in The Times states that Costa and Conte have decided to put their differences aside and the Spanish international is back in contention to start against Hull City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

It was also stated that although everyone is buddy-buddy for now, Costa could still leave in the summer as his volatile nature is far from impressing Conte who continues to stamp his authority not only on the players but the entire club.

It’s clear Conte is boss but he can’t have Costa undermining him as seems to have been the case over the past week and it was also the case earlier on in the season when Conte demanded Costa remained on the pitch.

That said, Costa’s importance to Chelsea can’t be understated as he is the join-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 14 goals and he’s added another five assists this season. With reports linking Chelsea with a summer move for Alvaro Morata, it appears Conte is already trying to plan for life without Costa.

Can the Blues win the PL title this season without Costa’s goal and presence up top? Despite a seven-point lead, probably not. That’s why Conte calling a truce in his instance makes sense.

That said, he now has six months or so to line up a long-term replacement for Costa.

The cracks have been papered over for now. But how long will it be until two fiery characters collide once again?

Lionel Messi discusses his Barcelona future

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 11:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the Copa del Rey round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on January 11, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lionel Messi has addressed speculation linking him with a move away from the only club he has ever known.

[ MORE: Who are title favorites? ]

Messi, 29, has been at Barcelona since the age of 13 and the Argentine superstar has won every possible trophy with the Catalan giants, plus has been crowned the World Player of the Year on five occasions.

Time for a new challenge?

Reports had suggested that Barcelona have wanted to start talks over a new contract with Messi for quite some time but with just 18 months left on his current deal, Messi and his representatives are yet to hold talks.

“I have always said that Barcelona has given me everything and I am here for as long as they want me to be,” Messi said in Coach magazine.

Hmm.

Messi also spoke about his former manager and mentor, Pep Guardiola, and his challenging start to life in the Premier League as manager of Manchester City.

“It is a very competitive league, last season showed that, so it makes it very difficult to predict,” Messi added. “Of course Pep is a very successful coach, he will be adjusting to the league, but I am sure that he will be successful.”

Will Messi be part of Pep’s success at City?

It is obvious Barca will want him to stay but if a huge offer comes in for Messi from Man City this summer, or others in the Premier League, then surely he will think twice about it.

If Pep can coax Messi to join him at City, who can clearly afford him, then it would be another glittering star in their attacking line. That said, if Guardiola is going to be successful then he’ll have to add plenty more quality in defense as City currently sit 10 points off leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go in the PL season.