In Memoriam: Michael Bradley

I came here to bury the Player in My Pocket Michael Bradley, not to praise him.  No the United States midfielder is not deceased, but by all accounts and by looking at the evidence his career at Aston Villa is.  Bradley has not even made the bench for Aston Villa's last two matches.  Villa beat writer Mat Kendrick has indicated on twitter feed that there is mutual disappointment between player and club. Fellow beat writer Timothy Abraham was similarly down on Bradley's chances of his loan being made permanent in the summer in this interview with The Shin Guardian.



A logical question one could ask is has Bradley been given a fair chance?  The short answer is no.  He came on as a late sub in the league after Jean II Makoun was sent off against Blackpool, his only start was as part of a weakened side away to Manchester City in the FA Cup, and he featured in a reserve match where by some reports he was outplayed by the much maligned Moustapha Salifou.  Based on these limited opportunities he has been relegated to the same purgatory as Steven Warnock, Habib Baye, and the rest of Villa's misfit toys. 

He also started twice for the US against Argentina and Paraguay where it was clear he is out of form.  One arguement that has been made is that Bradley is struggling to cope with the pace of the Premier League.  The fact he struggled for the U.S, where he typically is one of the teams stalwarts could show he is not at his best.  If you make that assumption, the case could be made that an on-form Bradley could very well be an asset to Aston Villa.

In reality when the question of whether or not he has been given a fair chance really is irrelevant.  He came to a club in turmoil and in a relegation scrap.  The manager decided to lean on his experienced players and its hard to argue with recent results.  What did Barry Bannan do to lose his place in the team?  Eric Lichaj was playing very well, played poorly along with the rest of the team against Manchester City and was never heard from again.  Nathan Delfonueso had his moments when given the chance.  Cieran Clark has played all over the park this season and he hasn't started in a month.  Whether any of this is fair or not, the manager has to do what is best for the club.

The only other unanswered question is why Michael Bradley was brought to Aston Villa in the first place.  My speculation is that at the time Stiliyan Petrov was playing rather poorly, Nigel Reo-Coker's contract was up at the end of the season, and Bradley was seen as a possible replacement for next year.  There was no risk to the club, all they had to do is pay his wages for a few months.  If he broke into the first team or impressed them they could buy him in the summer and if not he would be Borussia Mönchengladbach's problem should they be relegated and need to sell.

Now with Petrov starting the past couple matches he looks less likely to leave in the summer.  All signs point to Nigel Reo-Coker signing a new contract with the club.  It will cost the club nothing to just keep those guys.  Going forward with Petrov and Re-Coker, along with Makoun, Fabian Delph, and Barry Bannan there is more than enough cover in Central Midfield.  Maybe if Ashley Young leaves, and either Delph of Bannan play behind Darren Bent in a 4-2-3-1 the club could use extra cover.  Still that can't be a high priority for a club that will need a Right Back, Left Back, and perhaps a Center Back and Goalkeeper.  In reality there is no need for the club to give him a run out and try to make it work.

If, and more likely when Villa decline their option to buy I will be disappointed.  Given the way Bradley was marketed when he signed, it really felt like he was viewed as a big piece of the puzzle going forward.  It was also a massive ego boost for me personally when my PIMP signed just a couple of months after I wrote the piece.  I was all over twitter boasting about my clairvoyance in that I wrote he was exactly the type of player Villa needed.   At least Villa Direct gave us American fans free "hero printing" for our Bradley jerseys, and I got a good deal on my sweet away kit.

When this is all said and done I'm sure Bradley will be labeled a "flop" or a "failure" at Aston Villa, especially in the British Press.   All that happened is that he was brought on loan, played a couple of games, and the club will decide what to do in the summer.  It's not good or bad, it just is. 

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