Though Brace the Hammer is exclusively dedicated to West Ham United, and solely West Ham United, we would be a little remiss if we didn’t have a quick word on the Hammers striking the final blow to Bob Bradley’s tenure at Swansea City.
Since a lot of us apart of Brace The Hammer are actually from across the pond here in America, opining about the sudden firing of the first Yank to manage in the Premier League is indeed worthy of our time.
Back when Bradley was originally hired in October to replace experienced Italian manager Francesco Guidolin, I had stated that it was the wrong move for new American owners Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan.
Marcelino should have gotten the job over Bob Bradley. But they nor Giggs are of a Swansea 4-3-3 usual philosophy. Can't see this working.— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) October 3, 2016
Not only was Guidolin’s firing a little harsh for him stabilizing the club last season by leading them out of the relegation zone that his predecessor Garry Monk had placed them in. But more importantly, this job was a bridge too far for Bradley.
In the highest level of football matches, Bradley was a manager who was just in over his head with this massive position. His tenure with the U.S. national team was a proper sign of that. He was fortunate that a healthy Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan lead his side to a historic upset of a No.1 Spain side, without Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinal. In the final, Bradley lacked the impervious “Park The Bus” philosophy for his side to prevent Brazil’s comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Forgotten in how his reputation was still enhanced for those last two matches of that tournament is the fact that the U.S. needed help to even play those matches after being torn apart in the group stage by the same Brazil side 3-0 and well handled by Italy 3-1.
If you could give him leeway for those matches, due to all three of those teams being football powers, the 2010 World Cup showed how there were noticeable flaws in Bradley on the biggest coaching platforms. He was tactically exposed by being down 2-0 to Slovenia in the group stage and, even worse, showed how he got his lineup and strategy completely wrong vs Ghana in the Round of 16, using a first half, non-injury, “non-red card for a goalkeeper” substitution to take out Ricardo Clark for Maurice Edu in the 31st minute. When do you ever see a sub like that happening at such a prominent football match?
The United States just didn’t improve enough for Bradley to keep his job for a second term, with the 4-2 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final a final example of a coach who, despite his diligence, wasn’t a must-keep manager. That inability to inject a dogged defensive first, defensive second style affected him when he was hired for Egypt, with Ghana again providing him another bitter pill to swallow. The Pharaohs under Bradley had no impervious nature whatsoever in the crushing, blowout 6-1 playoff loss to the Black Stars in Accra that prevented him from taking the storied nation back to the World Cup.
All those signs, despite his reputable fine work and desire to coach in the unglamorous leagues of the Tippeligaen (Norway’s top flight) and Ligue 2, showed that Bradley would not be a success at Swansea. Although the ridiculous American stereotype accusations are something he certainly didn’t deserve, Bradley still doesn’t contain the cleverness and successful tactical thinking required to be UEFA Big 5 league manager in my mind. That sentiment held by me prove to be the case, as the Welch club further regressed defensively underneath the former Chicago Fire and NY Metrostars manager to Premier League low levels.
Yes, the departure of club captain Ashley Williams to Everton is another big loss the club hasn’t recovered from. And long gone are the days where Swansea’s ascent up the English footballing pyramid was predicated by 4-3-3 quality technical passing play led by Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers. But Bradley had to at least show that he could organize a side, like Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis do, and grind out results. It wasn’t demanded upon him by Levien, Kaplan or club chairman Huw Jenkins to regain the attractive but results producing style that Martinez and Rodgers built and Monk couldn’t sustain, but to just see a rise in the standings away from the bottom three. Unfortunately, Bradley was not able to deliver that.
Although the aforementioned Williams’ goodbye to the club left them without any defensive stalwarts, Bradley still had no excuse for Swansea’s backline to diminish like it has done. If Sean Dyche at Burnley can turn average centerbacks such as Ben Mee and Michael Keane into steadfast walls of organization for modest Burnley, then Bradley or any decent coach could surely get the same out of the experienced Argentine international Federico Fernandez, talented Catalan Jordi Amat, veteran fullbacks Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel and Dutch giant Mike van der Hoorn. Instead, Bradley wasn’t able to.
My co-editor-in-chief, the always solid Jonathan Liebling, disagrees with the firing and drops a good reason why the decision is bonkers.
But it also showed how Levien, Kaplan and Jenkins’ lack of faith in Bradley to get the right players in the transfer window means he should have never been their manager in the first place. And why Swansea City are currently tied for last place.