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Why Aston Villa Made a Wrong Decision to Rule Out Bob Bradley


When Aston Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner issued a club statement Sunday afternoon announcing that the Midlands side had identified the two most important traits in the search for a new manager, US coach Bob Bradley was effectively ruled out of the running. The first trait was they wanted candidates with experience managing in the Premier League. The second trait was someone who could build on the existing strengths in their current squad.

I understand Aston Villa’s reluctance to hire Bradley, but I wholeheartedly disagree with their insistence that the manager must have Premier League experience. To me, the club was essentially repeating what many of the Villa supporters were saying. But instead of kowtowing to its supporters, Villa needed to make a bold decision by hiring Bradley. Instead they have now narrowed their choices significantly by insisting that Premier League experience is a necessity. But is it that important? Football managers don’t necessarily need Premier League management to be successful at Villa Park. Times have changed a lot, but none of the following managers had Premier League management experience (or First Division experience) before becoming English top flight managers: Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini, Roberto Di Matteo, David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Tony Pulis.

By ruling out managers who don’t have prior Premier League experience, Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has put himself in a corner. Either he hires a manager who is not qualified for the position or he has to convince another Premier League club to let go of their manager.

Consider for a few seconds the list of managers who have Premier League experience and who are out of work looking for opportunities:

  • Gary Megson,
  • Paul Jewell,
  • Sven-Goran Eriksson,
  • Gareth Southgate,
  • Gerard Houllier,
  • Alan Curbishley,
  • Graeme Souness,
  • Alan Pardew,
  • Paul Ince,
  • Ricky Sbragia,
  • Joe Kinnear,
  • Iain Dowie,
  • Lawrie Sanchez,
  • Steve Clarke,
  • Glenn Roeder

Except for one or two of the above managers, the vast majority of them fail to fill me with any confidence that they can do a decent job at Aston Villa. So unless Lerner goes back against their decision, they will effectively be forced into nicking a manager from another Premier League club. The challenge with that is that no league club is going to let their manager go easy. And even if Villa can convince a fellow Premier League to let go of their manager, it’ll cost Villa an excessive amount of money to end the manager’s contract and sign him on at Villa Park.

There’s always a chance that Kevin MacDonald may be given a chance to stay on the club for a longer period of time, but he doesn’t seem cut out for the job for the long haul. As a caretaker manager, he’s been fortunate that Villa hasn’t lost three of the four games with him in charge. After beating West Ham United in convincing fashion on opening day but then losing against Newcastle United and Rapid Vienna, Villa held on to grasp a fortunate 1-0 victory against Everton on Sunday thanks largely to the heroic saves of Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

After Villa’s home victory against Everton, the statement was published on its club website which effectively ended any hope of Bradley becoming manager. But I believe the decision to rule out Bradley was more of a public relations exercise by Villa who feared that its supporters would be upset at such a risky move to bring in an American who is untested on the European stage. I believe the executives behind Aston Villa are trying to play it safe in their search for an O’Neill replacement. Too safe, in fact. And now the bookies in England are favoring David Moyes as the next manager of Villa. But that’s just fueled by press speculation. I fully expect Everton to issue a statement indicating that Moyes is not interested in the Villa manager position.

The sad aspect of this whole story is that I really believed Bob Bradley would have exceeded expectations at Aston Villa. Bradley would have worked harder than anyone to make the position a success. As someone who has been a success on the national and international stage, it’s a ridiculous notion to say that a manager with Premier League experience would automatically be better than a coach who managed a national squad in the World Cup. Could a Gary Megson really do better than Bradley? I doubt it. Sure, Bradley would have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but now that Bradley will continue being the coach of the US men’s national team, we will never find out. And out through the window goes the best chance an American manager would get to coach at the highest level in England.

Expect the drama of a search for a replacement for O’Neill to drag on into the end of next week. In the meantime, Bradley has signed a four-year contract extension which will ensure that he’s the coach of the US men’s national team through the World Cup in 2014. The opportunity for Aston Villa to capture him has been lost, and it’s now, sadly, back to the drawing board for Villa. Let’s hope they make the correct decision this time.

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  1. Natalya

    August 31, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    As a neutral (Liverpool supporter) I think Villa were quite right to not consider Bradley. Obviously he has no premier league experience and I don’t think that is a trivial point. This is Aston Villa, a big club with a tremendous following and it is understandable that they want an established manager.

    Moreover, look at Bradley’s performance with the American squad in the world cup. In every single game his side came out completely unprepared and in almost ever game, fell behind and/or gave up an early goal. That strongly speaks to the squad not being mentally prepared and that’s something a good manager knows how to do. Finally, his player selection wasn’t particularly good as he persisted with some players that were poor (Altidore). Worst of all, he brought Ricardo Clark & FIndley back into the starting 11 even after both had poor performances in previous games. No surprise that both men were poor, yet again, and Clark’s giveaway gave Ghana an easy goal.

    A man who demonstrates such obvious mistakes with a national team AND no premier league experience, has no business managing Aston Villa.

    • ChucklingYank

      August 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm

      This is the most cogent comment of the bunch. Sorry, fellas, but she blows you all away. (I’m assuming “Natalya” would be a female, right?) She voices a clear point of view and backs it up with indisputable facts – not opinions. Finally, her analysis of the USA’s shortcomings in the Cup is one of the best I’ve seen (not insignificantly, because it matches my own exactly). We got zero goals from our forwards the entire tourney and had to be carried by our mids (including the still scintillating Landon Donovan… thank-you very much, Terry). Unfortunately, though, you won’t go far in World Cup like that. Why we stuck with such ineffective strikers all the way down the tubes is beyond me. But it has to be laid at Mr Bradley’s feet. Ideally, he will have learned these lessons as he moves us on toward Brazil ’14.

      Anyway, top marks, Natalya. You nailed it!

  2. fraggle rock

    August 31, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    i love how bradley penned a new deal the day after villa ruled him out. way to support your country, bob. second choice.

    this guy is terrible and the usa will never make it past the first knock-out round of the world cup while this bozo is in charge. his team is stagnant. they just don’t progress.

  3. Sir Guy

    August 31, 2010 at 11:39 am

    No feelings one way or the other about Bradley, but I hope Faulkner misspoke when he said the new man must have experience managing in the Premier League. Why limit yourself like that?

    Your list of “available” managers reminds me exactly of what goes on in U.S. sports. Need a new coach/manager? Let’s hire an experienced NFL/MLB/NBA man who has failed somewhere else. Brilliant!

  4. CTBlues

    August 31, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I think the title should read: “Why the USSF Made a Wrong Decision to Keep Bob Bradley”.

    • The Gaffer

      August 31, 2010 at 10:35 am

      It goes both ways, I agree.

      The Gaffer

  5. Dave C

    August 31, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I agree that Villa seem to have made a strange decision in limiting their shortlist to managers with experience in managment in the premier league. With the exception of Sven, they’re essentially limiting themselves to a list of very mundane choices.

    However, I agree with everyone else that much of the rest of this article is crazy:

    (1) I don’t think Bradley was ever seriously discussed as a contender for the job. The speculation on this matter seems entirely limited to this website (much like the “Arteta for England” campaign).

    (2) The list of managers WITHOUT EPL experience that you provided (Ferguson, Ancelotti etc) is ridiculous. They all had significant achievements to their name outside of the EPL before they were hired (or got into the EPL through promotion). The same can’t be said of Bradley (and I’m sorry, pulling off one shock win over Spain in a mickey mouse tournament two yrs ago doesn’t count for much).

    (3) “Villa needed to make a bold decision by hiring Bradley.” Again, he has done nothing to suggest he should be considered. To hire him would not have been a bold decision, it would have been a reckless gamble.

    (4) “Could a Gary Megson really do better than Bradley? I doubt it.”
    Well has Bradley ever done anything to suggest he’s better than Megson?? No. But this is kind of a moot point anyway, since we don’t even know if Megson is being considered (I doubt that he is, but you never know).

    (5) “And out through the window goes the best chance an American manager would get to coach at the highest level in England.”
    The best chance an American manager would get would be to take a job maybe in the Championship or a smaller European league to prove himself like every other manager has done. You make it sound like Villa should allow themselves to be used as some kind of experiment in Affirmative Action for US Coaches.

    • The Gaffer

      August 31, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Dave, here’s my feedback on your points about Aston Villa and Bob Bradley.

      1) Aston Villa has been very quiet on which managers they’ve been interested in. Bob Bradley was definitely a contender, I believe. And it wasn’t just on this site where that idea was raised. Most of the major newspapers in England had been running with the story for days.

      2) Yes, Ferguson, Wenger and Ancelotti didn’t have Premier League experience before they joined their clubs in England. But look at some of the smaller managers and compare those to Bradley. Bob Bradley’s USA team came out of Group C in the World Cup in first place. They were the runner-up in the 2009 Confederations Cup, where they lost against Brazil. He won the 2007 Gold Cup. In 1998, his Chicago Fire team won the MLS Cup and Open Cup, as well as the Open Cup in 2000.

      3) I disagree.

      4) See point number 2 above.

      5) Someone of Bob Bradley’s stature should have an opportunity to manage a Premier League club. Experience at a Championship club would be helpful, but his experience at the international level for the United States and at the club level for Chicago Fire should demonstrate how qualified he is for the job.

      The Gaffer

      • Dave C

        August 31, 2010 at 4:12 pm

        Here’s my “feed-feedback”, if you will:

        (1) I accept that the story was run elsewhere too, although given the nature of British newspapers, this is not saying much. It basically means one reporter comes up with an unsubstantiated piece of speculation (i.e. Bradley’s American, Lerner’s American, Ergo Bradley is in consideration), and then all the other reporters pick up on it, without necessarily having any roots in fact. I still really doubt that anyone at Aston Villa seriously considered it.

        (2) The “smaller” managers you listed have all got into the EPL through promotion (with the exception of Martinez, who still did very well in the lower leagues before being poached by Wigan). i.e., They’ve all demonstrated that they can get a team to win consistently over a whole season against several strong opponents, plus all the small things like that they can manage British players, that they know what goes on in a transfer window, etc. Bradley has done none of these things.

        I maintain Bradley has done little at international level to deem himself worthy. WC qualification is a gimme in Concacaf. Winning Group C at the WC says very little – it’s only three games, and the difference between finishing 1st and 3rd was absolutely marginal. It really says more about England’s failings than anything. Likewise, getting to the final of the Confed Cup really involved getting one shock result. I don’t think you can compare getting a couple of unlikely results in a 3-game streak with winning a 46-game, 9 month league.

        (5) Bradley’s “stature” doesn’t earn him jack sh!t. His stature is that of someone who has done exactly what could be expected with the US team – no more, no less. He’s no more entitled to a job in the EPL then Bruce Arena is. If he thinks he “should” be given a chance in the EPL, he’s gotta earn it. I think he would be much better suited to the championship. I think a problem he would face in the EPL is that players simply wouldn’t respect him (for the reasons listed above). In the Championship, his resume would carry a bit more weight, and that would give him the chance to prove he can do something in a competetive league over 30+ games.

  6. Bob Bradley

    August 31, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Absolute rubbish The likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Mouriniho Roberto Mancini had won serie A’s, champions leagues etc : they are exceptions and of course were decent bets to survive in the prem, are villa going to get these? To mention Di Matteo is laughable and Pulis, Moyes, Martinez etc all joined or manage bottom tier sides (at the time) and were or are able to develop at the same rate as there clubs – they weren’t thrown in to manage a top 6 club and deal with the expectations and fan pressure that such a position ensues. Relegation battling, where fans hop to survive rather then expect and where you are looking to finish 17th is very different to trying to surpass Martin O Neils achievment of 3 6th places in a row. It’s also shrewd to go for amanager who has premierleague experience and knows how to handle english players when the majority of your side is english. I think we have seen the disaster many foriegn coaches have had trying to implement their style on a team prodominantly consisting of english players – Capello, Ramos.

  7. Ryan

    August 31, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I have no issue whatsoever with Villa not hiring Bradley and I think there are better managers out there that Villa can get, but ruling him out because he doesn’t have EPL experience is ridiculous. Personally, I think Martin Jol would do a fabulous job there, but even if he never managed Spurs and only had his Waalwijk, Hamburg, Ajax experience, he would be just as qualified. The notion that one needs EPL experience is ridiculous, though. If I were a Villa fan, I would be very scared about the direction of the cub.

  8. John Dorian

    August 31, 2010 at 12:16 am

    “And out through the window goes the best chance an American manager would get to coach at the highest level in England.”

    Isn’t it a little too early to be talking about lost chances after Bradley had a one world cup that exceeded expectations? It is much more likely that a good second world cup would make Bradley a much more qualified candidate for the “holy grail” of a managing in England.
    And surely this wasn’t meant to be a story about Bob Bradley’s life? Aston Villa can do much better in terms of hiring managers who have, if not Premier league experience, then European league experience. The Premier league is unforgiving- one bad season means enormous financial losses, and betting on an unproven manager like Bradley set a club like Villa (who are challenging for Europe) back by a few years.

  9. VillaPark

    August 31, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Being fortunate not to lose in putting things into words that helps your article. The fact is that Aston Villa WON two of their three Premier League games under McDonald, something that only four teams out of twenty have accomplished thus far. That aside, this was done after MON left within the week of the season opener, with injuries to starting players (Cuellar, Collins, Agbonlahor) and with the loss of James Milner after the first week of the season.

    How as the 1-0 victory over Everton fortunate? They held the Toffees scoreless for 90 minutes and came out and scored an early goal that allowed them to play defensively at home one week after falling apart away to Newcastle. Tactics looked great from the manager and the end result showed that.

    • The Gaffer

      August 31, 2010 at 6:20 am

      Villa’s 1-0 win over Everton was fortunate because Everton should have scored. They had so many chances. Friedel did very well, but under normal circumstances, Everton would have scored a few goals from all of the goal attempts they had.

      The Gaffer

  10. Bosko

    August 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Hmmm, sorry to say this, but I dont agree with whoever wrote this article. Speaking as an english, aston villa fan, Martin O’neill was a fantastic manager, what people have to realise is that whoever replaces him now HAS to be someone with at least some experiance as it’s big boots to fill.
    A club like Aston Villa, performing how we have been in the past few years, cannot simply afford to gamble on a purchase like this, who knows, he may have been fantastic, yes he’s made USA’s national side more of a proper soccer team, but lets be real here…..people are saying how successful he was for USA in the world cup, the group was terrible, remembering I’m English even i can say England were a weak team in the group, we were in no condition for a competitive run in the world cup, and if USA wern’t to finish above algeria and slovenia…..then theres the time to be seriously worried!

    Now don’t get me wrong, being english i don’t know the complete Bob Bradley as most others do over here, but what i do know is the intensity, pressure, high demands and talent in the premier league, and for Bradley to not have any EUROPEAN experiance let alone what Villa are asking for, then it’s simply too much to risk, maybe for a mid-table club, certainly, go for the gamble, but not where Villa have been in the past few years, we need someone with a known profile. The daily basis of managing a squad of players with no experiance, learning to coach them everyday throughout what is a long season in the premier league, never sampled the taste of entering the transfer market purchasing or scouting players….not forgetting to try and handle the different type of professionals he has in the changing room to keep happy keeping in mind some of the high profile players we have……people really think he is ready for this if he took the job at the end of august with a club that has high expectations?! Reality is….no chance.

    As for the list produced of premier league experianced managers that do not have a job at this moment of time, realistically, when Villa’s chief executive made this speech, you don’t really think he meant those targets? The Moyes story explains it all, we want someone good, and all good managers have a job, it’s a fight to get them, but it’s worth the battle….what good managers are around at the moment with premier league experiance that doesn’t have a job…..can only think of one, but I don’t think O’neill would be happy to come back!

    All in all, this is just my opinion, as you can tell im a big villa fan, I hope people can see MY point on ‘Why Aston Villa made a RIGHT decision to rule out Bob Bradley’. No offence to americans or Bob Bradley himself, but I just simply could not see it going as swiftly as this reporter does.

  11. Terry

    August 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    “Sure, Bradley would have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but now that Bradley will continue being the coach of the US men’s national team, we will never find out. And out through the window goes the best chance an American manager would get to coach at the highest level in England.”

    Aston Villa shouldn’t be an experiment to see if an American can succeed in Europe. And none of the managers you mentioned with no EPL experience had zero experience elsewhere in Europe, which is exactly what Bradley has. If Bradley really wanted to coach somewhere in Europe he shouldn’t have signed a contract. He’s like Donovan, choosing comforts over challenges.

  12. sucka99

    August 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Why is Bradley the consensus best pick? Surely there are managers from other leagues in Europe who are more qualified and who would also work hard.

    Also, that list of managers who came in without premier league experience are all more qualified than Bradley having had experience in the championship or in the top division of other European leagues.

    It’s a big miss for US soccer, but it’s not a big miss for Aston Villa. Maybe just a small miss.

  13. brn442

    August 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Villa isn’t exactly Manchester United is it? They stopped being a big club after losing the league to the red devils in 92.

    How much PL experience did Little and Gregory have when they took over compared to O’leary.

    Bradley was worth a go. Shame.

  14. GuitarearI

    August 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Makes you wonder if the stipulation about Premier League experience really means a manager whose budget expectations aren’t too high. I’d wonder if Bradley or outside managers might demand a transfer budget that Lerner isn’t willing to part with.

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