When Bob Bradley made history in October and became the first American to manage in the English Premier League he, more than anyone, knew he would have fight harder than ever to prove himself.
Fast forward almost two months and, with his first win behind him, he knows that is still the case more than ever.
At his first press conference Bradley, who was born in New Jersey, made it clear he knew what the protocol was going to be.
“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,” admitted Bradley.
And with three points bagged, albeit only just in the topsy-turvy 5-4 win over struggling Crystal Palace, the 58 year-old again emphasized that a connection with the fans was crucial.
“We have some good guys and they are good to work with every day,” beamed Bradley at The Liberty Stadium on Saturday
“I’ve enjoyed what each one is all about and I try to create an environment where everybody is part of something – the players, the staff, everyone. I am trying to find a way of connecting to the supporters too.”
It’s a connection that unfortunately due to his New Jersey accent and, more comically, his fashion sense is yet to take hold.
Match of the Day host and former England striker Gary Lineker recently pulled Bradley up on his ‘jumper’.
It was water off a duck’s back though for Bradley, as was the fun poked at him on social media for his American pronunciation of Alan ‘Pardoo’.
“I’ve already heard I’ve failed the dress test. My daughters told me they thought a pair of black slacks and a nice black sweater was fair enough, but obviously Gary Lineker didn’t,” said Bradley after defeat in his first game against Arsenal.
“I thought a jumper was something a little girl wore to kindergarten!”
Although that was light-hearted, Bradley has and will have to face up to more sinister attacks aimed at the American stereotype with a common Twitter phrase being “he’s out of his depth”.
Far from it.
Taunts and jibes on social media are far from a balanced overview of the Swansea fans, but it’s safe to safe generally there was not too much cheer when Bradley was handed the reins on October 3. There was a feeling of apathy.
With two American owners at the helm in Wales it was an obvious starting point for his detractors, but Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien admitted to not knowing and never meeting Bradley before his interview, which reportedly went very well. What’s more they were adamant that Bradley was the best man for the job and with Ryan Giggs the other major candidate it’s hard to disagree.
Would Manchester United and Wales legend Giggs had to put up with jibes about his appointment being down to his playing exploits at Old Trafford? Certainly not from the mainstream media, who had tried their best to get Giggs the job. But with no coaching experience to his name, Bradley’s resume must have stood out a mile from Giggs’ list of winner’s medals.
And looking deeper into Bradley’s achievements it’s not hard to see why Kaplan and Levien hung their hats on their compatriot.
His management career started in 1981 but he rose to prominence with a near five-year spell at the helm of the US national team, where he boasted a win percentage of 52.5%.
That was eclipsed by his time in charge of the Egypt national team, where he became a respected figure after his efforts to galvanise the country in the aftermath of the uprising that engulfed Cairo. He was also in place when the Egyptian Premier League was suspended in the aftermath of the Port Said Stadium riot of 2012, where 74 people died and 500 were injured. He has seen and experienced hard times.
It was then Bradley showed his compassion and leadership facets, visiting the injured and loved ones of the deceased. He had after fully immersed himself in the Egyptian way of life and he just missed out on 2014 World Cup qualification, losing in the play-offs to Ghana, finishing with a 67% win percentage.
Bradley then led Norwegian club Stabaek to the Europa League before joining French club Le Havre in November 2015 and just missed out on promotion to Ligue 1 by a single goal.
He was torn to leave the French side but a move to the EPL was a dream he could not turn down and he’s convinced Saturday’s remarkable home win will be the turning point for the Swans’ season. More of the same will help get the fans on his side, but for a manager that built his teams on firm rocks, the 5-4 scoreline last time out was not what Bradley is about.
His USA team was strong and resolute and his expertise was squeezing more from inferior players, and with that in mind he seems a good fit for the Swans, who sold two of their best players from last season Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams to leave them with a modest squad.
In the summer they did not really replace the pair, although Fernando Llorente scored twice in the last few seconds to sink Palace and Bradley is hoping the Spanish focal point can be the man to step up and fire them to safety.
If Llorente can find his feet, and he has admitted to struggling to adapt, then Bradley has a chance of leading his team to mid-table. But Bradley deserves a fair go at proving he can do the job.
Forget his Americanisms and referring to a penalty as a ‘PK’, the goalkeeper as a ‘net minder’ and the Premier League as the EPL, Bradley has established himself as a hard-nosed manager and not ‘an American manager’ as he pointed out from day one but ‘a football manager’.
And as he admits, his slacks, jumpers, accent and Americanisms won’t matter if he starts turning over positive results: “If we win, no one will care.”