Bob Bradley was unceremoniously axed from Swansea City last week, following just 11 games in charge, and though he leaves with “disappointment” and “some anger,” he speaks candidly about his time at Swansea and what went wrong in an interview with SI’s Grant Wahl in the new Planet Fútbol Podcast.
Bradley guided the Swans to just eight points in 11 games, and the club sits in last place as the Premier League heads into the second half of the season.
“In the end, I’m the first to admit that eight points in 11 matches, that’s disappointing, but I think if you looked around you would find many situations, other managers, other years, where eight points in 11 matches has happened before,” Bradley said. “That goes with the territory, but obviously it doesn’t always say too much about the overall ability to manage and coach, because it’s tested in a very different way in the Premier League.”
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Bradley elaborates on that point, explaining how difficult it is for a new manager to try in leave his mark on a team near the bottom of the table while also fulfilling the need to secure points consistently and how difficult it is at Swansea, where multiple factors made the situation a tough one to navigate.
“I certainly understood the situation at Swansea when I decided to come here,” Bradley said. “There were two parts to the situation, there was the off-field turmoil, the feeling of distrust between the supporters, the supporters’ trust and the way Jason [Levien] and Steve [Kaplan] became owners. … I came in completely in tuned to what I was inheriting.”
Even so, Bradley figured he’d get more of an opportunity to right the ship, especially given that he hadn’t had a transfer window during which he could bring in new players to both fulfill his vision and help the team in the short run in terms of accruing points.
“I was surprised, because, as you can imagine, in almost three months I had regular conversations with [chairman] Huw Jenkins. I had weekly discussions or biweekly discussions with Jason and Steve. We spoke about our team and we clearly spoke about the need to improve the squad in January. We had identified some players.
“To be very clear I also know that when you come into a top league, from the second you arrive the clock’s ticking, so that ability to produce points in the short run is important, and honestly I knew that getting points in the early periods was going to be the most difficult part of the job.
“When I look back, the part that I’m most frustrated with is that I’ve not been able, during this period, to really put my stamp on the team. I think in other situations it was quite clear that I was able to get a team to play football in the way I wanted. … The Premier League doesn’t give you the chance to put your football stamp on things, because when you arrive you’ve got to fight for points.
“When you have a team and confidence is low and when the margin for winning is razor thin and you go down I think it was 75% of the time, that makes the job harder. I think there were moments when we were close, but overall we were still looking for consistency and I think it was going to be important to add to the squad in January.”
As for what Bradley would do differently, he doesn’t have many regrets.
“I think maybe I would not be quite as open,” Bradley said. “I would’ve even behind the scenes been a little shorter at times just to make sure that I knew everything about everybody before I put so much out there, but that’s not easy for me to change because I think I’ve been successful over the years where the environment has been one of challenging people, being open, putting things on the table. I think this time around for whatever reason, some of that went against me a little bit.”
One aspect that was perceived to be working against Bradley was his nationality. He was scrutinized in some corners for his word choice when discussing the game, and the fact that he was the first American to ever manage in the Premier League cast a unique spotlight on his every move.
“It’s hard for me to say how legitimate it was,” Bradley said. “As you know, there’s an amazing amount of coverage. Some of it is done at a very high level … but when you have that amount of coverage there are many many people trying to create headlines, whose jobs are to stir the pot, so at times it would come up but I would tell you this, the people that were in our weekly press conferences every Thursday, the people I dealt with the most on game day, I have received some e-mails even in the last few days that they appreciated the way my football ideas came through.”
“So I think that I handled that part very well, but at the same time, there were times where people wanted to know about some of that. Some of it was made up and again, did I slip up occasionally, sure, but I don’t think after a controversial penalty when you’re discussing it after the game and then you call it a PK, if that’s the biggest slip up that I had during my tenure I think anybody that focuses on that is way off base. So I never worried about it.”
With an unexpected clear slate for the winter what’s next for Bradley? Would he entertain an opening at 2018 MLS expansion club LAFC, which has expressed interest in him before? Or will he aim for another opportunity abroad?
“If the right call came today, I’d be back at work tomorrow,” Bradley said. “The next job that I take is going to be important, because, once again, you have to prove yourself. It’s not the first time I’ve been fired. For me, we’ll see where the next opportunity comes. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t believe in myself, if I wasn’t strong, if I didn’t have this ability to go for it and not care about what anybody says or thinks and that part of me will never change, so let’s see what happens next.”