American stigma: Bob Bradley unfairly vilified at Swansea

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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.

Ronaldo not ready for retirement: ‘Age is just a number’

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Cristiano Ronaldo reassured Juventus supporters and his legions of fans worldwide that at 34 he’s not ready for retirement yet.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

“Age is just a number. It does not mean that at 34, 35, 36 you are at the end of your career,” Ronaldo said at a news conference ahead of Juventus’ Champions League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday. “I can show that with my performances, how I play, the way I play, the way I still feel good, sharp, thinking about the game, more mature. This makes the difference.”

In the second season of a four-year deal at Juventus, Ronaldo had sparked concern among his fans when he said in an interview published a few weeks ago that he was starting to enjoy seeing himself “outside of football, so who knows what will happen in the next year or two?”

Ronaldo recently scored his 700th goal as a professional while on international duty with Portugal and has been nominated for a record sixth Ballon d’Or award – which would break his tie of five with Lionel Messi.

But Ronaldo said he’s more interested in winning a treble with Juventus.

“We want to win Serie A, we want to win the Cup, the Champions League,” he said. “Juventus should think big. … We are going to try to win all the trophies, we know it will be difficult, especially the league and the Champions League, but I think it is possible. Everything is possible.

“In terms of individual, I have nothing to say as this is individual. It is not the most important thing,” Ronaldo added. “The most important is the collective awards. If you win the collective awards you have more chance to win the individual awards. … The Golden Ball is for me in second place.”

While retirement may not be on Ronaldo’s mind yet, family time is a big part of his life now.

“To win games, to score goals, to enjoy myself, to arrive home and see my kids happy and say, `Congratulations daddy for scoring a goal.’ That makes me happy,” he said. “This is my motivation to come to train, for the games, to entertain people and the fans with my passion.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

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Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.

Italy women’s team awarded for ’emancipating’ female game

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ROME (AP) The Italy women’s national soccer team was awarded the Foreign Press Association’s Invictus award Monday for promoting and “emancipating” the female game in the country with its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Head coach Milena Bertolini and forward Barbara Bonansea were given the award during a ceremony at the Rome-based association.

With soccer dominated by men in Italy and few opportunities for girls, Bertolini recounted how she had to dress up as a boy to play as a kid.

“Now things are changing, thanks to the Italian federation’s school programs,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and Bonansea lamented that female players are still not considered professionals and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,500 per year by Italian law.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a question of rights,” said Bonansea, who also plays for Italian champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

While Italy’s men’s team is a four-time World Cup champion, the women had not played in a World Cup for two decades and entered as a prohibitive underdog during its opening match against Australia in France in June. But the Azzurre came back from a goal down for a 2-1 win courtesy of Bonansea’s two scores , with her second coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

“That goal shaped our World Cup, both in terms of results and in terms of promoting women’s soccer in Italy,” Bertolini said. “The strong emotions on the field were transmitted to everyone who was watching. I still get goosebumps now just thinking about that goal.”

The Azzurre went on to win their group then beat China in the first knockout round before losing to eventual finalist the Netherlands.

In a country of 60 million people, a total of more than 20 million spectators watched Italy’s five matches on RAI state TV, setting audience records for women’s soccer game after game.

The Invictus award is dedicated to “promoting the positive effects of sports in terms of integration and emancipation by the vulnerable sections of society.”

UCL preview: Spurs desperate for a win; Man City host Atalanta

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By the end of the week, we’ll be at the halfway point of the UEFA Champions League group stage, and while some Premier League clubs (Manchester City and Liverpool) are currently in rather strong positions, a couple others (Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea) have some serious work to do to rescue their respective campaigns.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Tottenham’s start to the group stage has gone about as poorly as it could have done, considering the positions in which they’ve found themselves early in games. Going from 2-0 up to a 2-2 draw away to Olympiacos was bad enough, but going from 1-0 up to a 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich was the real demoralizer.

Now, last year’s UCL runners-up find themselves third in the group with just one point. However, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is set for a back-to-back home-and-away with (presumed) doormat Red Star Belgrade, beginning Tuesday when the Serbian side visits the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Spurs will continue to be without goalkeeper Hugo Lloris following his dislocated elbow, while midfielders Christian Eriksen and Giovani Lo Celso are back in full training and expected to be available for selection. Tanguay Ndombele was only involved as a second-half sub during Spurs’ draw with last-place Watford over the weekend, so he is likely to return to the starting lineup.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

Man City, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace and feeling a renewed sense of PL title contention after Liverpool dropped their first points of the season. While a domestic three-peat is undoubtedly high on the list of priorities for Pep Guardiola‘s side, it’s probably safe to assume that breaking though in the UCL is the main objective for 2019-20. Since Guardiola took over at the Etihad Stadium, City have reached the quarterfinals twice and the round of 16 once. Under the direction of Manuel Pellegrini, City reached the semifinals the season before Guardiola’s arrival.

Outside of long-term knees injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane, City have a clean bill of health.

Tuesday’s full UEFA Champions League schedule

Atletico Madrid v. Bayer Leverkusen — 12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Dinamo Zagreb — 12:55 p.m. ET

Tottenham Hotspur v. Red Star Belgrade — 3 p.m. ET
Manchester City v. Atalanta — 3 p.m. ET
Galatasaray v. Real Madrid — 3 p.m. ET
Juventus v. Lokomotive Moscow — 3 p.m. ET
Brugge v. Paris Saint-Germain — 3 p.m. ET
Olympiacos v. Bayern Munich