Bob Bradley's international experience yielding success at Le Havre
Bob Bradley has followed a fascinating career path since being removed as manager of the U.S. team in July 2011.
His first port of call was Egypt, where he stayed on as manager of the national team despite the country being caught up in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011 and the Port Said Stadium riot in February 2012, after which domestic football was suspended for two years.
Bradley, 58, then became the first American head coach of a European top-flight club when he took over at newly promoted Norwegian side Stabaek in January 2014. He left in November after leading the club to a third-place finish and qualification for the Europa League.
Earlier in his coaching career, Bradley won the MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cups with the Chicago Fire before moving on to the New York MetroStars and Chivas USA.
Now he is making use of all of that experience as he tries to lead French second-tier side Le Havre back into Ligue 1 for the first time since 2008.
Le Havre were fourth in the table when Bradley took over on Nov. 10. After winning five of their last seven matches, they are now third in the table, which would be good enough to earn promotion.
With six matches left in the season, the man who led the U.S. to the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup tells ESPN FC about his experience in France so far.
ESPN FC: How have you found the job? Has it been everything you expected?
Bob Bradley: I'm pretty good at sizing things up before I make the decision. So I had a good idea that the project had potential but that the project was also [one] with challenges.
It's always more difficult when you come into a situation in the middle of a season. It certainly isn't the ideal way to work. I read one article where Carlo Ancelotti was saying that at one point I think he took a job in the middle of the year and it was the worst mistake he ever made.
But I think we've been able to move forward in a good way. My experiences in the past in different situations help because I understand that when you come into a new situation, you don't come in with all the answers. You have to listen. You have to observe. I really relied at the beginning on the coaches that had been here. And then little by little, you start to establish areas where I thought we could improve and where we could do things better. So it's a lot work.
It's been long days, but I think the team has become stronger. It's more confident. Our football in our good moments is better, but still not as consistent as I'd like. But with six games to go, we're still fighting.
ESPN FC: Did you feel there was pressure on you coming in midseason? Was there an expectation that you need to be in the promotion race come the end of the season?
Bradley: [Club president] Vince Volpe and [managing director] Arnaud Tanguy spoke about the project, and obviously the goal was Ligue 1 this year. But they were both realistic and saw the work that needs to be done not only to get to Ligue 1 but to stay there.
There's always pressure, that goes with every job anywhere. But I still felt that the people here understood the work that was needed and that together we could find a good way to do things.
ESPN FC: Are you happy with the way the squad has responded? There's a perception among certain people outside of France that in terms of training, the intensity isn't that high compared to other countries.
Bradley: I was aware of the idea that the French mentality was different. That's part of what I mean when I say you come in and you listen, you observe. So it wasn't as though I came in and from day one changed everything. But I think working with the staff, finding a good way to challenge the players, we've been able to make progress in that regard.
When the discussion comes up, I'll sometimes throw out names of so many great French players that did get to the top because they worked hard. They had talent, but they also knew that talent alone wasn't going to get you to the highest level.
ESPN FC: In many ways, it's similar to the previous couple of jobs you've had. Is there almost a formula to it now?
Bradley: The first experience that I had overseas was in Egypt, and if you consider everything that was going on in Egypt at that time, it was a great test.
But what it did is it reinforced the coaching skills that you've acquired. Your ability to communicate, your ability to run training, to challenge players, to figure out how they think and how to motivate them.
All the skills that you accumulate over the years, when you go into a situation like Egypt, they all get tested. When you come out of a situation like that, you feel good, that you have the ability to work in different situations.
I always thought I did, but the response of the players in Egypt was so strong and so positive and then from there for me in Norway it was much the same ... it's not done out of a book. It's just a feel that you have and a confidence in how you do things.
ESPN FC: Before you took this job, you were maybe a little bit frustrated that you hadn't got a bigger job in Europe. Do you feel that this is the right platform? If you get promoted, you will certainly have a platform to go and create a few headlines in Ligue 1 next season.
Bradley: To be clear, I never expressed frustration. I would always say that that's the way it is, that it'd be nice if there were bigger clubs that recognised my work and knew more about me. But having said that, I've never been afraid of rolling up my sleeves and trying to show people over and over the kind of work that I do and see what that means.
You're not worth much if you look like you're only in a job trying to move on. You're here and you're excited about the opportunity.
And then somewhere along the line if somebody thinks that the way you do things fits with their situation, then who knows? Maybe there'll be another chance along the way.
ESPN FC: You're on a good run, one defeat in seven. Is there proper momentum building?
Bradley: Yes, there is a good feeling and there is good momentum, but obviously that has to be kept in check. So for us, the game Friday at Brest is very important because in this run of late we still haven't been as good in away matches as we need. So for this week we're really just focused on the fact that we've put ourselves in good position, but to finish strong, we're going to have to be a team that plays well at home and away.
ESPN FC: Is that one of the things that has stuck out? It seems in France, whether it's the top division or the second division, getting consistency and those away wins is a big factor.
Bradley: Consistency is absolutely the biggest factor. When you have a team when there are in many cases younger players, when you work hard with players and you see improvement, trying to make sure that players can maintain a good level and that players that start to have success don't get ahead of themselves, I find that to be very, very important.
For me, I feel we've grown as a team, but as I mentioned, I still feel that our football isn't as consistent as it can be. That comes down to making sure that over the course of 90 minutes, that our concentration is right. That we do the simple things well over and over. That our decision-making is making the game easier, not harder. So there's a lot of little things that we speak about and try to figure out how to work on just to get to the next level.
ESPN FC: When you go to a foreign country, getting settled in a place takes time. In France there's the language as well; how's that coming on for you?
Bradley: I can put some different phrases together. If a conversation is football, I can understand.
I feel I'm a good communicator and I do it in a lot of different ways. But I know that it's important to continue to try to see how far I can go with the French. We live right in Le Havre, which for us is very important. In Egypt, we lived in Cairo because we felt to have any chance for success, you had to understand the culture and be connected. And here it's the same.
Mark covers European football for ESPN FC. Twitter: @mrodden