Bob Bradley is tugging on some serious heartstrings ahead of his Liberty Stadium debut, against Watford, on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Just over 48 hours before making his Swansea City home debut, the Premier League’s first-ever American manager called on his players to represent the club’s fans in a positive way, and remember what the Swansea shirt means and has meant to so many who came before them, will remain after them, and will come after them — quotes from Swansea’s official website:
“With all the things that go on in the lives of footballers, sometimes you have to be reminded of what a club was all about before you arrived on the scene. It is worth remembering that it didn’t all start when you pulled the Swansea City Football Club jersey on for the first time. Sometimes it’s good to have reminders about how much a club means to people and the responsibilities you have.
“That part has never changed for me — it’s the same whether you are coaching a national team or a club team. I want to make sure the players understand the responsibility of wearing that jersey.
“When you come to a club, I think that responsibility is at the heart of the kind of environment you create every day. You have to understand the people who are going to live and die by every kick of the ball in every match. You have to understand that the fans want to see something they are proud of, and of course at the same time you have to get results.
“It’s not something you can talk about in long speeches with the players, but I think it’s important to remind the players of some of these things. I think the players here are good guys — they are not unaware. But sometimes in football it is easy to think you came first.”
It’s a wise move by Bradley, playing the tune the fans would want to hear. Any new manager would do well to get the club’s fans on his side, to get behind the team and breed positivity and belief — especially a new manager who’s just parachuted into a relegation battle.
There’s also a practical point behind what Bradley said in the above quotes: barely a decade ago, Swansea were competing in League 2, the fourth division of English soccer. Their meteoric rise, which shouldn’t be overlooked in great rags-to-riches stories, was built on the back of players with ties to the club, many of which came through the club’s youth academy.
As they’ve established themselves as a perennial PL side, many of those players were left by the wayside as they no longer made the grade, replaced by professionals in the truest sense of the word — someone paid to do a job — the majority of inarguably higher footballing quality, but lacking any semblance of a personal bond with the club’s history and its supporters.