There are a lot of great histories about English footballers travelling abroad to try to find football where no one would guess it was played. One of these was Gordon Bradley, one we would like to “name”, “the father of soccer”, since he was a bit of a pioneer in being involved in history of this sport, especially in the US and at New York Cosmos.
Maybe he was not the real father of soccer, but we would like to think about him like that, and he was the first coach to buld a superteam put together in a shape and form no one had seen before. Stars from all over the World gathered in one football team.
The club New York Cosmos was not very much of a “Cosmos” in the first years and in the year they were formed back in 1970, inspired by the English and really established in it’s form by Plymouth born and former Daily Express editor Clive Toye.
Toye had previously worked with Gordon Bradley at Baltimore Bays, and he decided after being hired as a “director of football” type of position, to bring in Bradley who became the first New York Cosmos player in the history of the club. He was hired as a player-coach and the one who got the job to build a decent squad.
Bradley who had seen his best days as a player gone, with a previous life at Bradford Park Avenue and Carlisle United, before moving to Canada and Toronto Roma, winning the title, and from there to New York Generals, playing together with Cesas Luis Menotti, later to be Argentinian World Cup winning coach. And then Bradley had a short stint at Baltimore Bays before being hired by Cosmos.
Of course you need football knowledge to bring a football club to its foundation, but also financial muscles is a criteria, and with Steve Ross and the Warner Brothers as part of the franchise foundation, you had a great formula established.
Since NASL was not part of any FIFA rules, there were really no rules and despite calling it soccer, and the similarities to the European game, they had their own offside rules, shoot outs and a bit of a different approach, and the foreigners could come in from all over, and of course with English influence all over, English and especially British players were in majority.
St Louis Stars was the club in the NASL to follow in the early days, based on a clear philosophy of using as much as possible US players and not go for the foreign quick fix. But Steve Ross never really bought that idea and his eyes were set on revolution instead of adapting to old ideas.
He knew that to attract the crowds, you needed to bring in the best players in the World and start to progress. Gordon Bradley had long before the addition of Pele in 1975, build a strong team that won the NASL in 1972, based on a solid trio of former Scunthorpe defender Barry Mahy, Werner Roth and the Scot John Kerr.
All of them together with Gordon Bradley were at the club when Pele arrived, so was goalkeeper Shep Messing, who in a bit of a “tragic act” posted totally naked in a mens magazine to get soccer and Cosmos on the map in the US. Messing certainly did, but not really in a way you would belive the owners were particularly happy for.
Bradley was also appointed USA national coach in 1973, but only for six games, being defeated in all of them. He picked himself for a game, without even being a US citizen, something he later became in 1974.
Despite bringing in the best footballer in the world, Bradley didn’t manage to win the NASL trophy and was fired after the 1975 season, but faster than lightening came back a year later to coach again, now also Franz Beckenbauer had joined, and the team were in better shape.
Bradley did manage to win the NASL trophy again in 1977, with his Cosmos. Bradley was not 100% in charge of team affairs when the trophy was lifted, but part of the staff and of course a Cosmos man. The team now more or less complete including one of the finest goalscorers, Georgio Chinaglia. Chinaglia a former Italian international with a past at Swansea and later Lazio. A young winger, Steve Hunt, later to become and English international and playing for Coventry and West Bromwich. Former Blades duo Tony Field and Keith Eddy also made their mark in this “mix” of “magic”.
Bradley parted company with Cosmos and took over as coach at Washington Diplomats and in his capacity lured Johan Cruyff to town. He had done the impossible to get Franz Beckenbauer and Pele into the same team, now he was getting a chance to coach another footballing great in Johan Cruyff.
A type of a “Dutch family” was established at Diplomats with players such as Rongen, Jansen, Molendyk and a certain Guus Hiddink. Hiddink and Cryuff might have picked up a few learning points from Gordon Bradley as they entered the World of football management, and become two merited top men in that trade and business. After two years with Diplomats, Bradley left and started a long life of coaching in US college soccer.
Almost totally unknown in the UK and Europe, but a living legend in NASL soccer. Bradley a former team mate of Cesar Luis Menotti, coaching himself Pelè, Beckenbauer and Cruyff.
Bradley must be the perfect example of and “Englishman in New York”, for US and Cosmos their “father of football” and the one and only to have coached three of the greatest footballers the world have ever seen.