Bob Bradley’s appointment was the first mistake, the rest was typical Premier League ‘hire and fire’Bradley’s record is pitiable, but his appointment, treatment and sacking are just another instance of Premier League senselessness.
Until last night, we had been provided with little evidence that we were even going to have a Premier League ‘silly season’ moment. Then came the moment that Bradley, burdened by a variety of internal and external contributing factors, was sacked by his Swansea bosses. I pluralise bosses because the American owners who are central to Swansea’s takeover this year would have needed a helping hand in ditching the man they seemingly needed to imitate their American ‘brand’. Either way, he lasted 11 games which spanned 85 days. That means Bradley’s tenure will be just a bit more memorable that Les Reed at Charlton, but less so than Jacques Santini at Tottenham or Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland. Actually, I remember the latter quite vividly.
But anyway, how silly is sacking a coach who has lost 7 of his 11 games, picking up just 8 points along the way? Given Gary Rowett’s dismissal this month, not very. The Premier League demands results and with relegation bringing great punishment to modest clubs, Swansea had no time to play with. In a statement soon after the news that Bradley had been relieved of his duties broke, he acknowledged the culture of the Premier League; ‘I realised the hardest part was always going to be getting points in the short run’. The New Jersey man lost to immediacy and quite frankly, his coaching wasn’t up to the mark.
Swansea have existed through their top tier era with dignity, accrued respect from others and been the template for newcomers to thrive. Since Garry Monk’s sacking, the board have lapsed with managerial appointments and the club are in what is becoming a terminal rut. Jenkins and his devoted board were valued for their recruitment process; they have gotten it right almost every time since 2007 in a span of managers that have included Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup. Even after their first mistake with Monk, Francesco Guidolin maintained their position in the top flight. Looking back, he made no errors in his time at the Swans before being sacked in early October after a run of defeats to top 6 sides. If Jenkins and the club had before prided themselves on longevity and patience, they were now succumbing to the managerial mindlessness that only Arsenal have been able to avoid.
Bradley, with a coaching CV that nowhere near suited one of Europe’s top 3 leagues, was appointed and tasked with keeping Swansea up. He inherited the squad of his previous which was, generously speaking, only the second worst squad in the league. When the club sells its captain, you expect it to bring in a replacement. That wasn’t the case for Swansea, who not only left a void in central defence, but also failed to land at least one of Swansea’s previous cult heroes, Wilfried Bony or Joe Allen.
The ex-USA coach was unfortunately synonymous with the American takeover which was beginning to look like a farce. Intentions to inject big money into the club were nil, in fact, Swansea flexed no financial muscles in the summer transfer window and usually, large portions of the blame fall at the feet of the coach. When Guidolin was promptly sacked so soon after the window, Bradley was next in line. His appointment was welcomed by most, if not solely for the prospect of observing the first American coach take to the Premier League. Little did we know what was to follo
Generally speaking, he was given time and treated well despite a few defeats to start off. Patience wears thin when there is so much at stake and Bradley was going to realise this. His first game was thrilling and Swansea made Arsenal work hard for a 3-2 win, but the 0-0 at home to Watford brought to reality the task at hand. Since then, a few ‘good’ results came, namely a draw at Goodison Park and wins against fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland and Palace. Then came what was fatal for Bradley’s tenure, 3 defeats at the hands of West Brom, Middlesbrough and West Ham. They lost all 3, conceding 10 goals. Fingers have been unfairly pointed at his Americanisms and pronunciation of footballing terms, but there is nothing biased about highlighting Swansea’s frailties defensively. That was his problem and eventually the reason for his sacking.
There have been flashes of excitement for the Swans but nothing pertinent to suggest that they are capable of staying in the division. Swansea’s defending has grown unstable, their central midfield is weak, Borja Baston has failed to deliver anything living up to his price tag and Gylfi Sigurdsson, for all his talent, is not the type of exceptional player to single-handedly keep a team afloat. How much of that is Bradley culpable for? Probably a sole aspect: the defending. His inability to sure up a defence is telling of his fundamental skills as a coach.
Honestly, Bradley should never have been appointed. Whether it was denial of an actual relegation battle or Swansea believing in their once-trusted recruitment process, Bradley was odd. Throughout his tenure, all that has been memorable is the discussion that ensued after claiming people wanted him sacked because of his accent and calling a penalty a ‘PK’. This will be one of those 85 days that people only remember after being triggered by ‘Premier League Years’ and saying ‘Oh yes, remember when that American was Swansea manager?’. Only for Swansea, this appointment may be long-lasting in the memory for being the beginning of the end of their Premier League era.
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