Bradley has the 'bug' to accept offer from Rovers
After initially having his reservations, Stephen Bradley insists he is ready and able to lead Shamrock Rovers into next season and become the youngest manager in the Premier Division.
Bradley, who turns 32 next month, has been in caretaker charge at Tallaght Stadium since July following the sacking of Pat Fenlon and the Rovers board have identified the Dubliner as the candidate best suited to their long-term vision of resurrecting the biggest brand in Irish football.
Entrusting Bradley with that task in his first managerial role may seem a risk, especially given the ground needed to be made up on not just Dundalk but also Cork City, yet the former Arsenal trainee believes the club have adopted the right blend to yield results both in the short and long term.
Gaining the requisite UEFA Pro Licence qualification won't be a blocker to Bradley accepting a three-year contract as the FAI will find a place amongst their latest intake for the upcoming coaching course.
"The few months in the job has given me the bug for it," explained Bradley. "People like Pat Fenlon and Michael O'Neill told me the job would drag me in and it has certainly whetted my appetite. My main job is with the Rovers Academy but working with the first team is different because the points are important to every fan who pays their money to watch Shamrock Rovers.
"I've really enjoyed it and learned from some of my mistakes like getting the formation wrong for the home defeat to Cork City. I may be inexperienced but there's no perfect opportunity for doing anything. I believe things happen for a reason and if my late mother was still around, she'd tell me to go take the job."
Bradley has already opened negotiations to retain and recruit players for next season, aided by the guaranteed €210,000 prize-money accruing from finishing fourth and qualifying again for the Europa League.
While much of the talk around Rovers has centred on the plans to develop an Academy at the Roadstone sports grounds, one third of the €1.5m interest-free loan given to Rovers this year through the Wilson Family Trust and Pepper Group's Seumas Dawes was earmarked for "operations". The financial muscle has enabled Bradley to offer long-term contracts to potential targets, a cohort he believes will complement the clutch of youngsters blooded during this season of transition.
"There's no point signing big names with big egos who don't buy into what we're doing," he contends. "That's what has gone wrong here before. To say we can catch Dundalk at this moment is silly considering the gap between us. But we are capable of closing that and moving closer to Cork City. I know we can compete with them in terms of first-team budget. I'm not naive enough to think we can challenge Dundalk and Cork next season with seven kids in the team."