Stories From the Vault

Bob Bradley has the wrong accent

By Posted in - Analysis & Football Philosophy & Rants & Thoughts on January 12th, 2017 0 Comments

Bob Bradley has the wrong accent. That’s not why he was fired, Swansea’s woeful showing ensured that, but from when he was hired there were mutterings in the English media about how Bradley sounded. They didn’t like his use of the word “soccer,” apparently under the mistaken belief that the word is foreign to their shores when it is as English as “football.” They didn’t like his Americanisms like PK or other minor differences in terminology: admittedly some of the American terminology hurts my ears as well but that doesn’t make the speaker’s opinions invalid. Ultimately they just didn’t like the sound of a North American talking knowledgeably about soccer.

You might not like Bob Bradley or have believed he was the wrong appointment. Personally I thought Bradley had done a good job as US manager trying to handle absurdly high expectations from folks unfamiliar with the broader international game. Since then I was aware he was working in France but didn’t expect him to be in the frame for a Premier League job when the Swansea job opened. It is a big step from Le Havre in Ligue 2 to the Premier League, particularly when inheriting a squad weakened at the end of the last transfer window with months before any changes can be made.

I think Bradley was doomed to failure but most managers would be in the same position inheriting such a weakened squad. Some managers would have been given more time to sort things out but for Bradley his lack of top flight experience played against him. New managers always need time to determine their best XI, or rather their different best XIs for the variables in opposition and injuries. Bradley had eleven matches in addition to training sessions but still hadn’t found a settled team and there was seemingly no system in place, no light at the end of the tunnel. The board, still trying to recover from the missteps of the summer and the flak for hiring an American, decided they needed another change before the transfer window opened and Bradley was shown the door.

Bob Bradley might have been out of his depth, eleven games with a weak squad in a very competitive league isn’t really a fair test, but there is no doubting his knowledge of the game…except for those who decide that he has the wrong accent to discuss football. I had a similar experiences in England simply because I speak with a North American accent. I never had that problem in Italy no matter how poorly I was able to communicate my thoughts of soccer in Italian there weren’t issues over my accent. England, indeed Britain, was different: if I suggested something to the coach he’d dismiss it, if I asked my strike partner Martin to suggest it the idea would be considered. Martin wasn’t a Brit, he was from the Netherlands and had a Dutch accent which gave him more credibility than my west coast Canadian accent.

The funny thing is that it happens here and here it isn’t just the Brits who believe they have some special grasp of the game but almost anyone who identifies as something besides “Canadian.” A referee missing a call is decried because a “real” ref, meaning one from the plaintiff’s country or region of origin, would have made the call. The accent of the victim and perpetrator of a foul, or their parents, determines if either player has “no idea” about football or if the contact was a “bodycheck” or harmless shoulder to shoulder. There is still an element that fantasizes if you speak English with a North American accent and refer to the sport as soccer you can’t possibly understand football. The more amazing thing is how many of those folks are sports journalists in the U.K.


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