Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley joined The Football Show on Thursday.
Stephen Bradley enjoyed the 2021 League of Ireland season.
His Shamrock Rovers side won 78 points from 36 games. St. Patricks Athletic won 62. Nobody else reached 60. Rovers won the league at a canter. The only disappointment for the Tallaght-based side is that they didn't win the FAI Cup. But back-to-back league titles after losing Jack Byrne is a fair consolation.
Bradley has been the Shamrock Rovers manager since 2016. He's just 37 years of age, one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks within Ireland.
He got a head start in his career as a coach because he was looking towards his coaching career while he was still playing. Most players start to consider coaching once retirement beckons. But Bradley actually started thinking about coaching very early in his career, even looking past his playing career to the day he could become a manager.
Part of the reason for that was a traumatic incident early in his life.
"When I had the accident I was out of football for a long time," Bradley said.
"I got stabbed in the head at the time, which put me out for a long time. I would have been 18 at the time. My house got burgled at the time. So I got stabbed and broke a few ribs, stuff like that. I wasn't allowed to play contact sports for a long, long time. That gave me a lot of time to really reflect and look at where I was really."
Bradley played for Ireland at under-14, under-15, under-16 and under-21 levels. In 2000, he played against Andres Iniesta in a European Under-16 qualifying tournament. Arsenal signed him when he was 15. He played in a friendly for Arsenal, but never played a competitive game. He shared a youth team dressing room with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Sebastien Larsson.
That "accident" as Bradley refers to it preceded Bradley's return to the League of Ireland. He played for Drogheda United, before joining Shamrock Rovers and St.Pats. He finished his career at Limerick in 2013.
"It definitely helped me and shaped me. It made me really focus on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, in football and in life. So although you wouldn't wish it on anyone obviously, it definitely helped me refocus and understand what had happened and where I want to go."
Bradley's aspirations moving forward are unclear, but it's clear that Shamrock Rovers will be happy to keep him for as long as they can. With Dundalk returning to normalcy next season and St. Pats coming off an FAI Cup final win, the League of Ireland promises to be more competitive.
And if Bradley can incorporate the returning Jack Byrne successfully so the team rises to another level, we could see an Irish team making real progress in Europe.
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