Bob Bradley interview: From Swansea to Los Angeles and learning along the way

Exclusive: The only manager in MLS history to have won the league championship in a new franchise’s first season is aiming high once again with LAFC

Chris Young
Monday 02 April 2018 13:17
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Bob Bradley is starting over in Los Angeles and is optimistic of what the future might bring
Bob Bradley is starting over in Los Angeles and is optimistic of what the future might bring

Bob Bradley says he used his Swansea sacking as an opportunity to broaden his footballing know-how after one of the briefest managerial reigns in Premier League history.

Bradley - now presiding over MLS new boys LAFC - watched his new side succumb to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s brilliance in last weekend’s inaugural Los Angeles derby after LA Galaxy fought back from 3-0 down to claim local bragging rights.

Despite the defeat, there has been plenty of encouragement for Bradley at his new club after the American has moved on from his ill-feted tenure at the Liberty Stadium.

It’s 15 months since Bradley was sacked by Swansea after just 11 games at the helm. During the 60-year-old’s spell in charge, the struggling Welsh club won only twice and conceded 29 goals, before he was axed amidst fan and dressing room disgruntlement.

Bradley was the first American to manage in the Premier League

But although his long-held Premier League dream turned sour so quickly, Bradley refused to mope; swiftly turning his focus on the future, before being named LAFC’s first head coach last July.

“It was a strange year, but when that happens, it’s time to take a step back, get around, watch other teams, look at things you’ve done in the past. You use it all to get better when the moment comes [for the next position],” said Bradley.

“In any sport, you’re on the go when you’re in the job and there’s so much to do. You don’t go looking for a break, but if one presents itself, you step back and use it in the most positive way. That includes family, a lot of things.”

At the time of his sacking, Bradley’s tenure was only behind former Charlton boss Les Reed’s eight games, as the shortest in the Premier League era. Frank de Boer subsequently beat both of them earlier this season when he lasted a meagre four top flight outings at Crystal Palace.

There is a sense of regret from Bradley that he took charge at a club which wasn’t completely convinced by his appointment in the first place. American co-owners Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan were predominantly behind his arrival, rather than long-serving chairman Huw Jenkins.

He survived just 11 games at the Liberty Stadium

But his name had been put forth for Premier League vacancies for several seasons and he was clearly hankering for a chance in English football.

The experiences he had gleaned from taking the USA to the World Cup knockout stages and Egypt to the brink of World Cup qualification were in vain though, as Swansea slipped from fourth bottom at the start of his tenure to second bottom by the end.

Bradley said: “There are chances which only come around now and then, and you end up going. I’ve said a million times that I knew we needed points in the short-run at Swansea. Does that change the way you work? Some people would say yes. Some people would say that we need to be more defensive, don’t take any risks.

“And yet, if you want to be a good team, I’m not sure that’s the way to go. You factor all that in when you arrive on the job. You take your experience and ways of working and go for it.”

The unanswered question over Bradley is whether his coaching style and Americanisms could have paid dividends at a more stable club. Certainly, he had built an impressive CV, both on the international stage and domestically in MLS, Norway and France.

Swansea were, and still are, in the midst of a hiring and firing culture.

Predecessor Francesco Guidolin lasted a mere 25 games, while Bradley’s successor Paul Clement was axed in December before he was able to complete a full year at the helm.

“There are many examples where after a few results, clubs feel pressure and with the money involved, they make changes,” said Bradley. “But you still see some examples [of stability]. Eddie Howe is one.

“It’s no different than any other sport. You see how organisations make decisions. There’s some organisations that are constantly in flux and others where there’s a stability about them.

“There are examples in football in the past - Sir Alex [Ferguson] is certainly the best one. Can that still happen, given everything… that’s a good question.”

When Bradley became available, he swiftly emerged as the leading target for new MLS franchise LAFC - a club co-owned by a host of Hollywood heavyweights such as Will Ferrell and Magic Johnson. Ironically - given Bradley’s history in Wales - Cardiff owner Vincent Tan also has a stake in the outfit.

Bradley is starting again back in MLS

It was understandable why LAFC were so keen on Bradley. He is the only manager in MLS history to have won the league championship in a new franchise’s first season - achieving that feat back in 1998 with Chicago Fire.

LAFC won their opening two MLS fixtures and despite the defeat to Galaxy, they were the better side for large parts of the game - particularly through their most high-profile signing Carlos Vela, after the Arsenal man netted a first half brace.

He said: “From the first day that you’re all together, you start establishing some football ideas and try to talk about football identity and personality. You make sure that the vision is there as you work every day.

“When you finally get a chance to play, there’s the opportunity to see if some of that comes alive. We have so many people that have been around LAFC for two years. They’ve been out in the neighbourhoods, trying to create some energy and momentum, and they’ve done an amazing job.

Bradley has learned a lot from his albeit short experience in English football

“All of that needs to be reinforced with something on the field. We’ve got a lot of work to do still, but first impressions are important and we’re excited that we’ve been able to follow up all the good work from everyone in the organisation and start the right way.”

But Bradley has faced a tough job picking up his players this week after they surrendered a 3-0 lead at Galaxy and saw Ibrahimovic capture the headlines with a stunning equaliser and last minute winner.

“The most important thing for us is that there are moments in football games where as a group you have to be resilient,” he added. “At 3-0 things seemed to be going our way, but we lost the ball and then at that moment we needed to find our way back to playing football.

"Obviously momentum and some incredible moments by Ibra at the back end of the game [changed things] but we’ll learn. That day is going to go a long way towards making us a really good team.”

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