Bob Bradley: The US Soccer Pioneer
Bob Bradley just coached his final game for Norwegian side Stabaek and is headed to Ligue 2 side Le Havre in France. What Bradley has done in his coaching career so far is nothing short of remarkable.
When we talk about the development of American soccer, the focus is on the players and with good reason. At the end of the day, it’s the athletes that have to produce the results on the field. But what’s often left out of the conversation is coaching. Kids can hold all the talent in the world, but without a coach to help build the skills necessary to grow into a solid, all-around footballer, that talent goes to waste. Of course, we can always import coaches from Europe or South America to sharpen the skills of U.S. youth players. However, there is no doubt that the development of American coaches is vital in the future of the sport in this country.
That’s why what Bob Bradley’s accomplishments are worth a salute from all U.S. soccer fans. The 57-year-old manager took over a Norwegian club team with one of the lowest payrolls in the league and that was flirting with relegation. Two seasons later, Stabaek has finished its campaign in third near the top of the table and with a spot in the UEFA Europa League next year.
Bradley’s next stop in his coaching journey will take him to France. While some see the taking over of a Ligue 2 club as a step down, it’s actually a potentially perfect situation for the American manager. Le Havre currently sit fourth in the table but there’s little wiggle room as only five points separate Le Havre from the 12th spot. Bradley will have plenty of time to steady the ship, develop the talent, implement his tactics and put the squad in position for promotion to Ligue 1. The top three teams get the golden tickets to go to the first division.
Bob Bradley is a pioneer. His success can blaze a trail for other American coaches looking to test their prowess overseas. At the same time, however, Bradley’s failure can give European owners all the reason to be skeptical of what a coach from the U.S. is capable of. There’s no question that having the “American” label attached to Bradley affects how teams in Europe look at him.
The former U.S. MNT knows this. “I think that in many cases, decision-makers play it safe,” Bradley told the Associated Press.
“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 contract with Le Havre is for two years. If he gets the squad through to the first division, I would like to see him stay there for some more time. It won’t be until he proves himself capable of leading a team into a European first division and keep them there that he will get an even more prestigious managing job.
With his philosophy, the right players and a little bit of luck, I believe Bradley can reach the next level of coaching in Europe.
Give ’em hell, Bob.