Written by Ian Colgan (@Ian_Colgan):
Contrary to a lot of wishful thinking, and my own optimistic feelings about Bob Bradley when he was hired by Swansea almost three months ago, he’s gone now and will not be in charge when Swansea host Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve.
“We are sorry to lose Bob after such a short period of time. Unfortunately things haven’t worked out as planned and we felt we had to make the change with half the Premier League season remaining,” said club Chairman Huw Jenkins in a statement on Tuesday evening.
“With the club going through such a tough time, we have to try and find the answers to get ourselves out of trouble. Personally, I have nothing but praise for Bob. He is a good man; a good person who gave everything to the job. His work-rate is phenomenal and we wish him well for the future.”
“Bradley arrived with a wealth of experience in the game,” the club stated. “He spent five years as the United States’ national boss, winning the CONCACAF Cup in 2007, while he also led them to the 2010 World Cup last 16.”
“He joined the Swans from Le Havre in France. Swansea City would like to thank Bob for his tireless efforts and wish him well for the future. The club will update supporters on the search for a new manager in due course.”
Many had said it would happen this week, while others thought he would be given two more games to effect a dramatic improvement, but either way it didn’t look good for the man from New Jersey; the first American to manage in the Premier League who came to prove he could walk tall and endure ‘in a world he never made’.
Bradley’s odds of being sacked in the hours leading up to his eventual dismissal were 1/4, and the 1-4 capitulation at home to West Ham on Monday was for many people the final confirmation that the experiment had failed...That whatever kind of manager Bradley is or was, and however qualified he might have been, that he was no right fit for The Swans and should probably be put in a dinghy and pushed off Mumbles Pier.
Large sections of the home crowd turned ugly on Monday, settling into a zealous rendition of the ‘WE WANT BRADLEY OUT’ chant shortly after they went two goals down, followed soon after by the ‘YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING’ chant, and the now-familiar ‘GET OUT OF OUR CLUB’ chant aimed at the club’s American owners...Doomful noises for an American manager to hear while watching his team heading for their fifth home defeat of the season without putting up much of a fight.
The frustration and hostility among Swansea supporters was understandable, and Bradley himself would probably have called it fair. In the short space of time since his arrival, Swansea won just two games, took eight points from a possible 33, are still 19th (the same league position they were in when he took over), and conceded 29 goals, 15 of them coming in their last five games, cementing the ignominy of having the worst defence in the league. Swansea’s defensive problem didn’t begin with Bradley, but it did get worse - their leakage increasing from 1.7 goals per game before he arrived to 2.6 goals per game now.
A little over two months ago I wrote that there was “little doubt” that Bradley would at least keep Swansea up this season, which seemed like a safe enough prediction to make at the time when they were just three points from safety. Bradley was a relative unknown when he arrived in October talking about wanting to understand Swansea’s ‘soul’. He was an obvious outsider, but his track record and self-assurance was enough to convince me that he could pull Swansea out of their rut. If he was to be sacked, I thought, then it would probably happen sometime next season after his initial impact and the ‘new manager lift’ had worn off.
Instead there was no lift or noticeable impact at all. Yet even now, I still don’t think I overestimated Bradley by much. Under different circumstances, or with a different club, he might now be making a name for himself in England in line with the reputation he gained in America, but Swansea’s results over the last two months demanded a drastic reappraisal of his chances. Somehow the gap has widened only slightly to five points, but it’s been the manner of the defeats that’s sucked a lot of the hope out of The Jack Army, manifesting itself in the kind of ugly vocal outbursts that were heard on Monday.
Bradley may have failed, but it was always hard to shake the natural sympathy his situation elicited and the sense that he got a raw deal. Let down by the club’s transfer business in the summer before he arrived, he has now been let go before the next window opened, meaning he has come and gone without being given the opportunity to oversee any transfer business at all. Club captain and stalwart defender Ashley Williams was sold to Everton, forcing Bradley to make do with an inexperienced defence, and last season’s top goal scorer André Ayew was sold to West Ham.
If given the chance to acquire the players he wanted in January, Bradley might still have turned things around, but the dilemma for Swansea’s board was whether to bank on that or make the change now so that the new manager can go after the players that he wants instead. Sacking Bradley after three months in charge is a shameful admission that they made a massive error in hiring him in the first place, but the absence of any improvement at all under his watch couldn’t be ignored, and it’s far easier to make a decision based on what he’s done, or hasn’t been able to do, rather than what he might have done in the future.
First-team coach and former Swansea forward and caretaker manager Alan Curtis, and Assistant Manager Paul Williams, will be in charge for the Bournemouth game, but a permanent replacement has yet to be lined up. Among the list of potential replacements are names like Gary Rowett, Chris Coleman, Alan Pardew, and Ryan Giggs...’Proper British’ men, who don’t use strange terminology like ‘road games’ and ‘PKs’ – Americanisms that Bradley, an American, was for some reason forced to defend/explain his use of when he was questioned about it in a recent press conference.
Just why any reporter thought Bradley’s native vocabulary was a reasonable or necessary thing to ask him about, is unclear, but it wasn’t much of a surprise given the big deal that was made of his nationality by the British media when his appointment was announced. Regarded upon arrival by many as a queer novelty act, in some circles Bradley’s shared nationality with the club’s owners was thought to be the only reason he got the job, and it didn’t help to quell the outrage that people like Giggs were interviewed and passed over.
Bradley’s nationality didn’t have much to do with his failure to win over Swansea’s supporters. There’s no cultural difference or disconnect in football that a manager can’t overcome with good results, but it was sadly inevitable that if things didn’t go well his foreign identity would become an issue.
‘Bradley, an American, unfortunately couldn’t survive the intense Premier League...’ This is the underlying, unspoken theme a lot of his epitaphs will go with. ‘He came, he saw, he failed...’