”I’m not an American manager, I’m a football manager. There’s not one person in Swansea who could care less about America.”
So said former USMNT head coach Bob Bradley during his first press conference as the new manager at Swansea. The 58-year-old, who cut his teeth in the NCAA and MLS before his stint with US Soccer and his subsequent adventures abroad, met with reporters earlier today to discuss his first training sessions with the squad and the peculiar challenges facing the first American to take charge of a Premier League team.
Bradley made it clear that he understands how tough the job will be and he doesn’t expect anyone to go easy on him.
”With football in the US, we have always known we needed to earn respect. It’s the number one thing. For a club to have any chance of being successful, you have to have connection with supporters and community. The first professional head coach opportunity I had was at Chicago and when I went there the first thing I said was we needed to have a connection with the city. When you have that you have something. I know it’s more important than anywhere here. If they’re angry right now I get it. I have full respect for Francesco [Guidolin] and I will do anything to earn their respect. If you come to the Premier League you have to earn respect. No-one gets it on a plate. You get tested. In everything I’ve done in life, I’ve fully understood you have to earn respect.”
Speaking of Guidolin, an awkward side-plot developed when the previous Swansea manager was spotted in the back of the conference room.
If that wasn’t dramatic enough, Bradley appeared to ignite (or possibly re-ignite) a feud with current USMNT manager Jürgen Klinsmann. The German, who replaced Bradley immediately following the disastrous loss in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, had hailed Bradley’s appointment earlier in the week as “fantastic” and said that he was absolutely deserving. Bradley, however, was feeling less conciliatory. He referenced comments Klinsmann made while serving as a studio analyst for ESPN during the 2010 World Cup and suggested that the German had been jockeying for his job.
”From the day I got fired from the US, I’ve not said one thing publicly about that team. I don’t appreciate the way it was done; I think they made a mistake. I’m glad that Jurgen said some nice things now. When he did commentary on the 2010 World Cup, he was already jockeying for the job, so I shut my mouth, continued to support the team because I of course want to see the team do well, Michael [Bradley] is the captain. So if [Klinsmann] said something in a nice way, I appreciate it, and if at some point he chooses to try to work outside the US, I wish him the best.”
The press conference wasn’t all drama and manager beefs, however. Bradley talked about what impressed him about the job— the club’s special relationship with the city and, in particular, the fans, as exemplified in the 21% ownership stake held by the Swans’ Supporters’ Trust.
”I know I’m at a club with a soul, that has real passion and real fans. That for me is special, as well as being in the Premier League where you get challenged at the top level.”
Bradley begins the work of pulling Swansea to safety next Saturday when his team travels to Arsenal.