Villa upheaval clears path for Bradley
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United States head coach Bob Bradley is being considered for a career-defining move to the English Premier League with Aston Villa.
Bradley, whose contract with the U.S. national team expires at the end of the year, was installed as the bookies’ favorite to take over at Villa on Monday after previous manager Martin O’Neill walked away from the job just five days before the start of the new season.
No American has ever taken charge of a team in one of Europe’s top divisions and Monday’s shocking developments could hand Bradley the opportunity of a lifetime.
An Aston Villa source confirmed to Yahoo! Sports that Bradley would be “in contention” when the club’s hierarchy draws up what is likely to be a short list of candidates as they urgently scramble to put a new man in charge. Also in the frame will be former Tottenham boss Martin Jol, currently head coach at Dutch club Ajax.
Villa is owned by American billionaire Randy Lerner, who also owns the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League. Lerner is a reclusive character who is rarely interviewed, and was not available for comment Monday.
Bradley is currently in New York, where the national team is preparing for an exhibition game against Brazil at New Meadowlands Stadium on Wednesday. After taking the side to the last 16 of the World Cup this summer, where it lost to Ghana in extra time, Bradley’s position has been the subject of doubt and speculation.
While Bradley did not admit direct interest in the Villa position, he gave a strong indication that he would be keen on the move.
“I’ve said over and over as well I’m always excited about new and different challenges,” he said Monday. “Coaching in Europe at some point is something I would love to do. At the same time I consider it a challenge when you finish one World Cup cycle and begin the process of working on another one.”
U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati was indecisive when quizzed on Bradley’s future after the tournament, prompting speculation that a high-profile foreign coach such as former Germany boss Juergen Klinsmann could be targeted to replace him.
Bradley has previously lamented the fact that despite several American players having made a significant impact in Europe, such as Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, American coaches often find their opportunities for further progress limited.
If the 52-year-old were to be given the chance at Villa, it would be seen as a significant step and more proof that American soccer is gaining in international credibility.
However, the situation at Villa is a tough one, with O’Neill and Lerner having locked horns over player transfers for the past few seasons. O’Neill’s sudden departure appears to have been caused by a disagreement over the proposed sale of James Milner to Manchester City.
The relative success under O’Neill, helped in no small part by consistent investment in new players by Lerner, has greatly raised expectations at the Birmingham-based club.
Regular participation in European competitions is now expected, and optimistic fans hope the team can push for a top-four finish that would bring a place in the Champions League.
An official club statement confirmed that O’Neill had resigned “with immediate effect.” Reserve team head coach Kevin MacDonald will temporarily assume his duties, but is not seen as a realistic long-term alternative.