We know Bob Bradley has been chasing a high profile job since being fired as the manager of the U.S. National Team. His ambition has led him through a challenging job in Egypt, becoming the first American manager to get his team qualified for the Europa League, and now to the Premier League. His challenge is now only truly starting though.
This roll of the dice by the new American owners of Swansea City could have huge ramifications on the perception of Americans in world soccer.
Some pundits have come out against the move for all of the typical, expected reasons.
@AlexiLalas their Premier league status. Letting a good manger go for someone with no experience in a major league. Seems a gamble to me.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 3, 2016
Lineker went on to tell Taylor Twellman and others that his concerns have nothing to do with Bradley’s nationality. Bradley’s lack of experience in a major league is an issue for Lineker and others.
Others are falling back on old biases against the quality of American soccer as a reason why they think that this move will fail. If Bradley does not improve the results at Swansea, those preconceptions will be validated. It would be a long time before another American manager receives this sort of opportunity.
Questions could also be raised about the optics of how things have been handled at Swansea. Firing Francesco Guidolin on his birthday and while he was on holiday leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some. Not involving the Swansea supporters’ trust in the decision, even though they own roughly 21% of the club, also caused some consternation. Bradley is somewhat caught in the crossfire on these elements.
There is no doubt that the new American ownership at Swansea will have their regime measured by the success of this move. Another ownership group might not have taken this chance. The feeling of the fan base towards this ownership group will almost completely rest upon the success Bob Bradley achieves.
If things turn sour for Bradley at Swansea, there will be a knock-on effect for American soccer. We already know all about the perception issues worldwide, for our national team, our players, our domestic league, and our managers. Those negative perceptions will be only reinforced by a Bradley failure at Swansea.
However, if Bradley proves to be a success, perhaps those perceptions can be changed. Could a successful season at Swansea see other American managers given opportunities outside of the U.S. and North America? Could Peter Vermes or Caleb Porter be next to chase glory outside of MLS?
What will be considered a success for Bradley is the next question? Swansea is currently in 17th place in the table. Is success measured by avoiding relegation? Do they need to qualify for Europe for this to be considered a successful season? The goalposts will be moved depending on who you talk to and their biases. The Swans finished in 12th last season, if Bradley can match that after this season’s poor start, would that satisfy the fan base and the pundits?
The landscape for coaching in the U.S. has changed dramatically with this move. That glass ceiling has been opened up for now. Can Bob Bradley keep it open with a successful run at Swansea, or will a failure there see it slammed shut for the next generation?