Bob Bradley continues to be one of the most criminally underrated managers in the soccer realm.
He deserves better.
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Last Friday his Le Havre side came within one goal of reaching Ligue 1 and it seemed as it the entire U.S. soccer community was wiling them, and the 58-year-old New Jersey native, on.
Bradley only took over last November but already turned around the fortunes of the Ligue 2 club as they won 5-0 in their final game but came up short on total goals scored, with Metz clinching the third and final promotion spot to Ligue 1 ahead of them.
Let’s take a quick look at Bradley’s resume since he was let go as the U.S. national team’s manager in 2011 to remind ourselves of what he’s achieved.
He has taken Egypt to the brink of the 2014 World Cup as they were the only nation to go through a group qualifying campaign with a 100 percent record but were then knocked out by Ghana in a playoff. He then went to Norway and lifted tiny Stabaek to ninth place in his first season and third place in his second season, plus appeared in back-to-back Norwegian cup semifinals. With just over six months in charge of Le Havre he took them within a whisker of France’s top-flight. All in all, he’s doing very well.
However, there’s one thing that seems to always be lacking for Bradley as a manager. Respect.
“I’ll tell you what, maybe I’m stupid but I think I am a manager in and around that level. I’m not saying I am better than those guys, I haven’t had those kind of opportunities,” Bradley said. “But I think that people who have played for me have always feel 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. I believe in my work.
“I don’t go around every day complaining, I just roll up my sleeves, try to show people what I’m all about and see what happens.”
Bradley was right to say in the interview that for every great manager in the world there are some not so great. That’s very true and some of the latter category continue to get jobs at the top level. Bradley falls into the category of managers who haven’t been given the kind of job they deserve for what they have achieved in their career.
The former U.S. national team boss guided the USMNT to the Confederations Cup final in 2009. He won the Gold Cup in 2007 and reached the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup where they lost narrowly to Ghana. He has achieved far more consistent results with a far less talented group of players than current U.S. national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann possesses.
That’s a fact. What is also a fact is that Bradley had success in Major League Soccer with the Chicago Fire, Chivas USA and the MetroStars. In fact, even if some critics say the MetroStars should’ve achieved more, pretty much everywhere he has gone he’s exceeded expectations. If you take his work with Egypt, for example, then you can see the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Mohamed Salah have both gone on to great things after being unearthed by Bradley during his time in charge of the Pharaohs. He is massively respected in the inner soccer circles and now widely in U.S. soccer circles too.
Yet he still struggles for widespread respect, especially in Europe. Maybe that’s because he’s American. It’s true that the struggle is still real for American players and coaches to gain respect in European soccer circles. It is just the way it has been for decades and the way it will continue to be for some time. If he was English or German or Spanish, he would’ve coached in one of Europe’s big four leagues by now. I’m sure of it.
He’s spoken to me about the lack of respect for Americans in the past and his also mentioned the lack of opportunities for American coaches when chatting to a good friend of mine, Rob Harris from the Associated Press.
“I think that in many cases decision-makers play it safe,” Bradley told the AP. “There’s certainly a network. There are still a lot of good managers. There are also a lot of bad managers. It’s not to say that sometimes you don’t shake your head at how certain guys keep popping up in jobs.”
How Bradley has yet to land a big job in the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A or even Ligue 1 is beyond me. It defies logic when you look purely and simply at what he has achieved so far in his managerial career. His teams have identify. They are tough to beat and they can be entertaining when everything clicks into place.
He has become the first American coach to manage in Europe’s top-flight and he’s shown he can work on shoestring budgets and provide success and positive results. Think about what he could do with bigger resources and a bigger platform on which to showcase his talents.
I’m not championing for Bradley to move on from Le Havre here because he seems to have had a wonderful time in France so far and believes bigger and better things are ahead with the side owned by Vincent Volpe. I’m simply stating that sometime soon he deserves a chance to show his talent as a manager at the elite level with a club in the Premier League or Bundesliga. Sure, there are a small amount of those jobs which come up each year and although his name has been mentioned for some PL jobs in the past, it hasn’t been mentioned as much as it should’ve been.
That said, when vacancies do come up this summer in some of Europe’s big leagues they could do a lot worse than hire a hugely experienced coach who has surpassed expectations on every step of his journey.
Bradley continues to be one of the USA’s greatest-ever soccer exports and it is about time he got the respect he deserved.