LONDON (AP) Bob Bradley persevered in Egypt through a violent uprising, exceled in Norway with limited resources and dropped into France’s second tier league to further prove his coaching credentials.
Throughout the arduous journey after leading the United States at the 2010 World Cup, Bradley remained fixed on the ultimate goal – a job in a top European league.
Now, after years of setbacks and rejections, the 58-year-old Bradley has arrived in the richest soccer league of all after landing a job with Swansea City on Monday.
The Premier League has had 21 different nationalities managing its teams, but Bradley is the first American after replacing the fired Francesco Guidolin in south Wales.
“Bob is extraordinarily intelligent about the game, his work ethic is second to none, and the way he manages teams and deals with people are all outstanding,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati told The Associated Press on Monday.
“You need a number of things to go right to get an opportunity like this (in the Premier League) and to break through if you are not in the regular circle of coaches that are considered for such opportunities.”
As the years rolled by, Bradley grew frustrated that he was interviewed for such opportunities in elite leagues but then overlooked for more established European names.
“In many cases decision-makers play it safe,” Bradley told the AP last year while completing his second season with Norwegian club Stabaek. “There’s certainly a network. There are still a lot of good managers. There are also a lot of bad managers. It’s not to say that sometimes you don’t shake your head at how certain guys keep popping up in jobs.”
Bradley’s early career developed out of the limelight. Never a professional player, the New Jersey native gained his early managerial experience in college soccer. He coached Princeton University, became an assistant with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United in 1996, then led the Chicago Fire, MetroStars and Chivas USA teams before landing the U.S. national team job in 2006.
The world was soon taking notice, particularly at the 2009 Confederations Cup where the Americans ended then-European champion Spain’s 35-match winning streak en route to the final.
Bradley’s reputation grew and the U.S. won a 2010 World Cup group, which included England, before going out in the second round.
After being fired by U.S. Soccer’s Gulati in 2011, Bradley sought a new challenge. It was one of the most daunting in world soccer, taking charge of Egypt in the midst of the Arab Spring uprising.
The “American Pharaoh” – as he became known – gained admiration there by sticking with the job even as Egypt was being shaken by deadly fan disorder, part of the wider anarchy in a nation going through violent street protests and bloody security crackdowns.
Bradley left Egypt after failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and moved to Stabaek, which he departed after securing qualification for the Europa League last year. He impressed in his next job too, in France, where Le Havre only missed out on promotion to the top division in May on goal difference.
Bradley called the Swansea job “a unique opportunity” in a parting message on Le Havre’s website.
“I know it’s the exposure I’ve enjoyed at the club that has given me the opportunity to coach a Premier League team,” he said.
Bradley is swapping one for small port city for another. Like at Le Havre, Bradley will be working under American ownership in Swansea, a former industrial city with a population of less than 250,000. Steve Kaplan, a minority owner and executive vice chairman of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, and Jason Levien, a part-owner of D.C. United, took control of Swansea in July.
With Swansea winning only one of its opening seven league matches, the owners felt compelled to act. Guidolin, who has only been at the south Wales club since January, became the first manager to be fired in the Premier League this season – and on his 61st birthday.
After the two-week international break, Bradley faces a daunting first game in charge: a trip to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal on Oct. 15.
“He is highly regarded as a coach and has a wealth of experience on the international and domestic front,” Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said. “He is well aware of the club’s footballing philosophy and will provide us with strong leadership qualities and a renewed belief to compete at this level.
“It is never easy changing managers, but we are looking at a long-term appointment and we are confident Bob can settle us down and stabilize matters on and off the pitch.”
Bradley is not the only American manager in English soccer. David Wagner has started the second-tier League Championship season at Huddersfield by winning eight out of 11 games, taking the northern English team to top spot in the division.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports