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'The board put it on me saying, 'You're the one to do the job, you're after saying what needs to change'

Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley is now the longest-serving Shamrock Rovers manager in more than half a century.

Stephen Bradley poses with his trophy, winner of the 2021 SSE Airtrcitiy/Soccer Writers Ireland Men's Personality of the Year award.
Stephen Bradley poses with his trophy, winner of the 2021 SSE Airtrcitiy/Soccer Writers Ireland Men's Personality of the Year award.
Image: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

STABILITY IS THE byword at Shamrock Rovers these days.

Many of their Premier Division rivals have either changed managers, lost a raft of significant players, or both.

Rovers, though, have added two players – Andy Lyons from Bohs along with the return of Jack Byrne – and from their first-team, lost only Joey O’Brien to retirement. 

Their is stability on the touchline too: Stephen Bradley, even at the age of just 38, is now the longest-serving Shamrock Rovers manager since the 1950s, and second-longest serving of all time. 

“Karl Reilly texted me that day and I couldn’t believe it”, said Bradley on the day he was announced as the winner of the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Ireland Men’s Personality of the Year award for 2021.

“A few more greys now…but I’m still here, yeah. The job at the start, did I want it? I was in the academy and when we presented to the board for what we felt the club needed to change, the board put it on me saying ‘You’re the one to do it as you’re after saying what needs to change’. They called my bluff.

“I felt if I didn’t take it at the time that a new manager would come in and bring different players and a different way of doing it. It wasn’t what I felt was needed at the time. It just fell into place but I said a million times at the start that it would take time because of where we were and where other teams were, but thankfully we were given that time, and we got in what we’ve got in over the years and we’ve done okay in terms of having some success. We’ve had internationals and we’ve moved some players.

“We have had some young players come through as well and hopefully we have more of them over the next three or four years as we have some really good ones coming.

“That’s a big part of what we’re doing. Longest serving manager since the 50s…it’s an honour. I think it’s an honour anyway! Yeah, it is when you think of where we came from, the average gate and season tickets when we came in, fighting for fourth and training in three different locations. It was a team, not a club. I think we have all had to work extremely hard, Stephen [McPhail], myself, Shane [Robinson], the board, to change that. Thankfully we are in the process of building something that we feel is quite good.” 

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The latest challenge is to win a hat-trick of Premier Division titles, though Bradley believes their level of competition has increased. 

“We won it by quite a margin in the end last year, but there was a period when Sligo beat us here and Pat’s were quite close to us at that point, it could have gone either way at that time. It was close, I know it doesn’t look that in the end but there were a few teams there and this year is going to be extremely difficult.

“Derry have obviously invested heavily and have a really good squad, Pat’s have done the same, good squad. Dundalk will be really strong, Bohs will be there and obviously Sligo. It’s going to be extremely difficult and just the fact that we’re trying to go for three in a row but, again, it’s a challenge we’re ready for.” 

That level of stability has its benefits ahead of a new season.

“It just means in pre-season we can focus on what we want to focus on”, said Bradley. “We don’t have to worry about do five new players understand what we do, how we play, how we press, how we train, prepare and recover. The group is together so everyone knows what we do, we have Jack coming back, he knows what we do. The only new one is Andy, they all know what we do which is really pleasing.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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