Sunday 25 March 2018

Wenger inspires Bradley 'to change something in Irish football'

Shamrock Rovers interim manager Stephen Bradley. Photo: Eóin Noonan / Sportsfile
Shamrock Rovers interim manager Stephen Bradley. Photo: Eóin Noonan / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The advice was plain and simple and, when it came from Arsene Wenger, Stephen Bradley immediately knew that the chance to manage Shamrock Rovers was too good to turn down.

Initially there may have been mixed feelings about replacing Pat Fenlon, but taking over as caretaker manager gives Bradley the kind of opportunity that would ordinarily not have come until much further down the line.

Bradley's contact with Wenger, or 'the boss' as he calls him, stems from the fact that the former Arsenal academy player is the Gunners' senior scout in Ireland.

These are busy but exciting times for the 31-year-old - he is also director of coaching for Rovers' schoolboys section.

Bradley doesn't possess a Pro Licence but is hopeful that the FAI will soon put on a course that would allow him achieve that qualification. In the meantime, he is entitled to act as caretaker manager for 60 days.

Bradley may lack the managerial experience but his vision for the club - and, indeed, how football in this country should be run - already sets him apart.

Youngsters Shane Hanney, Sean Boyd, Aaron Dobbs and James Doona all signed their first professional contracts with Rovers yesterday and Bradley feels that is a sign of things to come - at least for the Hoops.

"There is a lot going on with the kids and the youth side of things," he said. "That's massive for me because I believe we need to change something in Irish football.

"I think what Rovers are trying to do here is massive. They are trying to say to the kids - I left at 15 and I wasn't ready to go away - that it (going away) doesn't have to be the be all and end all for them.

"You learn to play real football very young. You see our team over in Finland and I think we had three 17-year-olds on the pitch at the end," added Bradley.

"If that's the way the club is going to go, why would you go away at 16 on a two-year YTS (youth training scheme) when you could play 40 games here by the age of 18? If you go then, you're thought of as a first-team player rather than a YTS.

"I think it's a no-brainer and I think it's needed in Irish football. You all know the stats on the players coming back.

"We can't just keeping going through the same stuff, sending players away and them coming home and kicking a can down the road.

"I think Rovers have thought, 'We're the biggest club in Ireland, let's go and lead it'.

"It's great to see the club putting so much money into it, and Limerick are doing the same. Everyone else must follow or they are going to be in trouble."

Irish Independent

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