When Bob Bradley was appointed by Swansea in October amid dreams of grandeur, the American soccer community puffed out its chest.
It was a big moment. A chance for Uncle Sam to stamp his authority at the Premier League top table.
The notion of fans here being naive really grates, which is why all the ‘Soccer Bob’ nonsense angered many. If the man wants to talk about ‘PKs’ and ‘road games,’ then let him. The childish giggles about his footballing vernacular were just that. Make no mistake, people in the U.S. were delighted to see Bradley get his big break. I spoke to his brother, Scott Bradley, a former baseball pro, once the news broke, and the pride was unmistakable.
The reality, however, was brutal and sadly predictable.
The disappointment was palpable. The New York Times, which had devoted impressive coverage to Bradley’s appointment while voraciously fighting his corner on social media when those language jibes began to fly, centred more on the unfairness of his sacking and the madness of the Premier League rather than heavily criticising the unsuitability of his managerial CV.
ESPN stuck the boot in deeper, claiming he was ‘doomed’. However the whole scenario hasn’t helped US coaches hoping to break into the Premier League. The likes of Jesse Marsch at the Red Bulls, Orlando’s Jason Kreis and Caleb Porter in Portland are well thought of. Yet more foreign experience is needed before even thinking about moving to Europe. It’s going to be a while before another American is given a similar opportunity.
For a manager with no top-flight experience to be expected to take charge of a woefully thin squad, which has suffered at the hands of mismanagement for the past four transfer windows, was an almighty ask from the American owners who thought they were being clever with such a left-field appointment.
Instead, Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan have ended up with egg on their faces. Bradley will never be seen in England again, yet, they live to fight another day.
With former supremo Huw Jenkins (pictured) receiving the brunt of supporter anger for misleading the fans’ trust about a takeover and then reneging on promises to reinvest the money, the American duo, at least, have a buffer to keep the haters at bay.
This whole fiasco, however, has done little to appease critics who believe the Swans are in the wrong hands. As stories begin to emanate about the Swansea players dubbing Bradley ‘Ronald Reagan’, it’s clear respect for him on the training field, where it matters most, had instantly flatlined.
There’s no guarantee that Ryan Giggs, who possesses only a fraction of Bradley’s managerial experience, would have been the Swans’ golden ticket. Yet, the Manchester United legend would have commanded instant respect in the changing room. Levien and Kaplan should have known that. Perhaps in a bygone era, one where acute panic in the boardroom doesn’t immediately result in axe-swinging, Bradley would have had more time.
Unfortunately for the American, boom or bust is the modern way.
Nevertheless, Bradley is adamant American hopes of Premier League success remain.
“We have always understood that in Europe, we still have to earn respect,” he said. “It’s growing. I was convinced that with support and time that the supporters would recognise I was the right man for the job. I was determined to make that happen.
“I won’t be the last American to manage in the Premier League.”
With New York based ‘Moneyball’ style transfer guru Dan Altman being brought in, the American sentiment in the South Wales remains. Levien and Kaplan are determined to validate their approach, though with Jenkins remaining Public Enemy No1, perhaps a clean break is needed.
As Swansea’s Stateside dream dissolves and Bradley licks his wounds, the future remains wildly uncertain for both. American perceptions have been dented, yet fortunately the damage isn’t irreparable.
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