AMSTERDAM – New Stabæk boss Bob Bradley says he was drawn to lead the promoted Nowegian Tippeligaen side after seeing the collective club desire to fight back from adversity.
Just weeks removed from the top job with the Egyptian national team, the former US national team coach on Friday inked a two-year contract with Stabæk that makes him the first American ever to manage a top flight European club.
And although Stabæk are not the kind of big club a coach with his resume might have expected to join, Bradley, 55, says the club's fighting spirit and desire to improve won him over while also allowing him to "get a foot in the door" in Europe.
"Everyone knows a couple years ago, Stabæk had some real financial issues," Bradley told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Norway on Friday. "One of the things that impressed me most when I came to see the club several weeks ago is that they look forward and try to learn from the situation. You can see they really want to prove everyone wrong and gain respect again."
With preseason camp mere days away and the first friendly at the Nadderud Stadion in Bærum – a suburb of Oslo – scheduled for Jan. 24, Bradley has not yet started mapping out the plan to fulfill the club's ambitions. But he does have an initial mindset in place, considering the club's recent yo-yoing between the first and second divisions.
"The first goal when you move up is to get points," he said. "If you can get them, as the season goes along, you can make new goals."
Bradley takes over a squad that remains bereft of many proven top-flight-level players. They are led by 23-year-old striker Mads Stokkelien, who finished tied for second in the Golden Boot race in the Adeccoligaen last year, and 20-year-old Ivorian goalkeeper Sayouba Mande.
"The group [of players] here is very young, but are highly regarded in Norway," he said. "To stay up, it may require adding some players with experience, but we are expecting to build a team that can compete in the league. Stabæk is a team that tries to play in a positive way, put passes together – and that falls in line with how I want to play.
Bradley hinted that some familiar players from his experiences in America and Egypt are falling within his search, but he made it clear that he will extend his scouting greatly in the coming days.
"When you're in a situation where the budget is not going to be the same as others in your league, a bit of creativity is required as you look around for the right players," he said. "In the discussions I've had with sport director Inge André Olsen, we have talked a lot about opportunities in the US and opportunities in Egypt.
"But that is a starting point. To build that team that can compete, we will dig into that in the coming days and explore every avenue."
Earlier in the day, in a video interview to Norwegian outlet Budstikka.no, Bradley touched on the significance of being the first man from his country handed the reins of a European first division club.
"As an American in the world of football, whether you're a player or a coach, you're always fighting for respect," he stated. "And I've had the idea for a long time that when the national team experiences were over, that the next step was to work in Europe.
"So to come to Stabæk, to get a foot in the door in Europe, to work in a club that has a philosophy and a history of doing things the right way — a lot of those things came together and made it something I really wanted to jump into."
Bradley went on to compare himself to some of his former USMNT charges in one important regard. Like the American players in Europe before him, he knows he will need to demonstrate his fitness for the job before Europe will consider him a truly international manager.
"Football in the United States — soccer as it's called in the US — has grown so much, when you look at Major League Soccer in the last 18 years, what's happened with the United States national teams, the success of both the men's and women's teams," Bradley explained.
"But still, Europe, sometimes in the football world, feels strongly about coming from within. It's not always that easy to gain respect in Europe. I've seen it with so many players: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Timmy Howard, Michael Bradley. They've had to work hard to get respect in Europe. And I think it's the same way now with [American] coaches."
Stabæk will open their 2014 campaign at home to Sogndal on March 30.