Q & A: U.S. MNT Midfielder Michael Bradley Leaves Germany for England
Michael Bradley’s career trajectory has followed a steady progression founded on his uncompromising mission to reach the highest levels of the sport. A product of the U-17 Residency Program, he spent two years at the MetroStars as a teenager before heading to Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie, a league known for developing talent for the challenges of bigger stages.
At age 21, he showed his increasing range and skill in his second full year with the club by scoring 21 goals in all competitions, including 16 in league play. From there it was on to the German Bundesliga and Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he quickly earned a starting role and became an anchor in central midfield. Another two years of seasoning and dealing with the pressure of relegation battles left Bradley ready for the next challenge.
Just before the 2011 January transfer window closed Aston Villa snatched the 23-year-old U.S. international on loan. Now just a few weeks into his time in England, ussoccer.com spoke with Bradley about beginning this stage of his career in arguably the most high-profile league in the world.
ussoccer.com: It’s been a couple weeks now since you made the move. How are you getting settled in at Aston Villa?
Michael Bradley: “Everything has been great so far. Once we got past getting the work permit and the visa and getting all of those kinds of things sorted out, everything’s been great. It’s been good to be in training and to be able to step on the field for the first time last week was good. I just have to keep pushing myself forward now.”
ussoccer.com: There was a lot of speculation at the run up to the end of the transfer window about where you might be moving, or if you would be moving at all. What was that like for you and what ultimately led you to the decision to go with Aston Villa?
MB: “As a player you want to be at a club where the people there appreciate who you are as a player and also as a person. The manager at Aston Villa and the people at the club showed a big interest in having me. They were committed to getting everything done quickly with Borussia Monchengladbach. Coming and playing for Aston Villa in the Premier League was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
ussoccer.com: Like you said, the club and the management showed great interest in bringing you to Aston Villa. It seemed like the reception you got there in the first couple of days was pretty amazing as well.
MB: “Yes, everybody at the club has been fantastic so far. From the time I got here, just as far as taking care of all the little details, making sure I felt comfortable and at home, everyone at the club has been amazing. It’s easy to see from the outside what a big club it is, but when you’re here and you’re a part of things everyday there’s a real family feel in the club and that’s always nice.”
ussoccer.com: What has the fan response been like since you’ve been there?
MB: “It’s easy to see right away that Aston Villa has a great tradition of huge fan support. The people in the city are so passionate about the club and about their football. From the day I got here everybody has been supportive and shown how excited they are that I’m here. Now at this point it’s up to me to hopefully work my way on to the field and show everybody what I’m all about.”
ussoccer.com: You come into Aston Villa on loan until the end of the year. How do you approach that situation when you’re coming into a team in the middle of the season and you’re trying to work your way onto the field?
MB: “The most important thing is doing the things I can control, and that’s every day in training trying to prove to everybody, whether it’s my teammates, coaches or the manager, that I’m a guy who should be on the field. Obviously coming in halfway through the season it changes the dynamic of things, but the main thing is coming in every day and making sure I’m sharp and I’m a guy who should be on the field come game time. That’s an exciting challenge and one that I’m working hard to accomplish.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve also joined a club that has a lot of history with Americans both with the owner Randy Lerner and Brad Friedel. Have you had the chance to spend any time with either of them and have they been able to help you along with the adjustment process?
MB: “I met Randy Lerner the first day I was at the club. He was around and introduced himself. We were able to sit down for a little bit and talk and that was great. The first thing you notice when you sit down with him is how much passion he has for the game and how much passion he has for Aston Villa. He’s so excited to be a part of it and excited to convey his ideas for the club. The fans and the players and everyone involved at Aston Villa can really feed off his passion. I’m around Brad Friedel every day in the locker room and at training. I see the professionalism and the experience that he has, the way he’s taken care of himself and the way he’s able to perform every week at the highest level. It’s helpful to be able to see that up close, watch it and try to emulate him.”
ussoccer.com: It’s been a goal of yours since the beginning of your career to try to progress and move into the top clubs and top leagues in the world, certainly the English Premier League being one of them. How does it feel now to have arrived in the place you are, playing in the English Premier League?
MB: “It’s been great. Not just the quality and level of the game, but also just the level of training every day is so high. As a player you want to test yourself on the highest levels. You constantly want to try to take the things that you do that make you a good player and put them to the test at the highest level to make sure you’re helping your team win. I’m excited to be here and just looking forward to the challenges every day in training and whenever I get my chance in the games to show I’m a player that has a lot to offer for the club.”
ussoccer.com: You spent the last couple of seasons at Borussia Monchengladbach being in high pressure situations at the end of the season where relegation battles were involved. Once again, you’re in a high pressure situation at Aston Villa. Even though Villa is in 16th place at the moment, only seven points separate the teams between 7th and 16th place. There are still a lot of points left on the table.
MB: “It’s an exciting time of year. The season is winding down and it’s easy to see when you look at the table right now that things are really tight. With a few good results we can easily be looking up and fighting for the European places and at the same time a bad result or two and it starts to get really tight down at the bottom. It’s an important stretch for us. We’ve got a lot of games coming up, definitely one more FA Cup game and hopefully a few more. It’s an exciting time of the season and I’m just trying to put myself in a position where I can help the team as much as possible.”