Bob Bradley doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him. He knew the Swansea gig was going to be tough and that the business can be very unforgiving. Bradley said as much in his statement following the termination of his contract at Swansea City:
”I knew exactly what I was getting into when I came to Swansea and realized the hardest part was always going to be getting points in the short run. But I believe in myself and I believe in going for it. That’s what I’ve always told my players. Football can be cruel and to have a chance you have to be strong. I wish Swansea the best and look forward to my next challenge.”
The former USMNT boss was in charge for 11 Premier League games; his side won two, drew two, and lost seven. Swansea are now in 19th place, ahead of Hull City only on goal difference, and four points from safety. Even if it’s too late to save Swansea from relegation— three managers in half a season doesn’t exactly instill confidence— something had to be done.
There isn’t one overriding reason why Bradley failed at Swansea. Pundits are highlighting his lack of experience at this level of the game, which is a fair point, but given that Ryan Giggs is currently the favorite to take over at the Liberty Stadium it would be dishonest to say insufficient experience was the main reason. A full and honest accounting of what went wrong for Bradley should be taken, both for his sake and the club’s.
But that’s not happening right now. Instead, we get a veritable feast of hot takes over whether Americans can succeed as managers of Premier League clubs.
Fox Soccer says Bradley’s nationality had nothing to do with his firing:
”Swansea City’s roster is a mess at the moment. The club never properly dealt with the departure of Ashley Williams to Everton, thinking they could piece together a defense in his absence. Francesco Guidolin, who began the season as the manager of Swansea City, couldn’t figure out how to do that, and neither could Bradley. The team leaked goals at an astounding rate. Bradley attempted to shore up the defense by placing Leon Britton in a defensive midfield role, but it never quite came together — and despite many attempts at different lineups, the defensive line never came together. You can’t win if you can’t defend, and Bradley couldn’t figure out a way to get his team to defend. That alone doomed him.”
But The Guardian says it kind of did:
”Bradley is a bright man and was aware of the focus his arrival would attract in Britain, where some stigma still exists around the US game. So he gave the media little rope to hang him with and made a favourable impression, answering questions fully while making time to create one or two deeper professional connections. Yet when things are going wrong you are only a slip or two away from a change in mood and his use of “road game” and “PKs” when speaking after his penultimate match, a 3-0 defeat to a mediocre Middlesbrough side, prompted the kind of overblown derision that had never felt a million miles away.”
ESPN FC says that, no, really, Bradley being an American was beside the point:
”Some of the Bob backers pointed to his points per game (eight in 11, or 0.72 per match) which was better than Guidolin’s (four in seven, or 0.57). For a start, they faced different opponents in different circumstances and if you really want to go there, three of Swansea’s five summer signings (Borja Baston, Alfie Mawson and Mike Van der Hoorn) didn’t actually make their Premier League debuts until after mid-September, which meant Guidolin was short-handed for most of his tenure. We’re talking apples and oranges here. Then there’s the basic point for those who love to whip out stats that a clip of 0.72 points per game gets you relegated. If Bradley kept that rate for the rest of the season, Swansea would end up with 26 points. And in a normal Premier League season, that equals not just dead-last, but buried near the earth’s core with full-on rigor mortis.”
While The Daily Mail insists that, no, really, the American thing was a problem:
”Bradley liked to talk and was a good communicator, but the American’s terminology was jumped on by some Swansea supporters frustrated by results. When Bradley referred to a penalty kick as ‘PK’ and playing away as a ‘road game’ in the wake of a 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, it was used as a stick by which to beat him with. Being lampooned on Sky’s Soccer AM – who poked fun by using Americanisms in ‘Brad Bobley Soccer Camps’ – also did him no favours. Bradley was bemused by the way some treated him simply because he was an American, but he insisted he would not change for anyone.”
Sports Illustrated shrugged and said anyone would’ve had a tough time in that situation:
”All eyes were on him. There were the skeptics in Britain who had every right to wonder whether Bradley could make the jump from France’s second tier to the most competitive league on the planet. And there were the morons who couldn’t get over the fact that people from different countries sometimes use different terminology. Across the Atlantic, Swansea games suddenly became destination viewing. They were a curiosity for some, but many Americans believed there was more at stake than just one club’s survival. It was tough enough to get the benefit of the doubt on the field. To earn it in a Premier League dugout would be the soccer equivalent of walking on the moon. All this was on Bradley’s shoulders.”
And USA Today said that, whatever effect the intangibles had on his tenure, Bradley was doomed from the start:
”Managers can also shift the club’s image in these kind of situations. Provide the fans hope, and a sense of confidence. For one reason or another, Bradley didn’t — or rather couldn’t, and it cost him his job. That these things didn’t happen perhaps speaks to the brevity of his tenure. Maybe he could’ve lasted a little longer, but even that seems an unlikely prospect looking at this team. It’ll be a miracle if Swansea staves off relegation. Make no mistake: Bradley was a dead man walking the second he stepped into that club, and the man who Swansea replaces him with will be, too.”
So will this affect whether any American gets hired to manage a Premier League club? It shouldn’t, but it probably will. Do not underestimate English Football’s capacity to blame literally anything else for its own problems.
Anyway, Bob Bradley will be just fine.