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'I was obviously upset. I just wanted to go and enjoy my football again'

Dundalk winger Steven Bradley speaks to The42, fresh from being voted Player of the Month.

Steven Bradley, posing with his SSE Airtricity/SWI Player of the Month award.
Steven Bradley, posing with his SSE Airtricity/SWI Player of the Month award.
Image: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

“THERE’S ONLY ONE Steven Bradley”, sing the Dundalk fans, to which it’s necessary to stress the spelling of the first name. 

The ‘V’ separates him from his namesake in charge of Shamrock Rovers, while he has distinguished himself from everyone else with his performances in the opening weeks of the League of Ireland season. Four goals in his first three games helped earn Bradley the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Ireland Player of the Month award for February, while hoisting Dundalk to second in the Premier Division and an unbeaten start. 

“I wanted to come over here and express myself, show people what I can do”, says Bradley. “I’ve not really had the chance to play a lot of first-team football. So I just wanted to come here and show my ability.” 

And how. Bradley is still a teenager – he will turn 20 on St Patrick’s Day – and has arrived on a loan deal from Scottish club Hibernian. Bradley is at Hibs having been released by Rangers. 

“I enjoyed my time at Rangers from when I was 8 to, like, 14 or 15. Then I got released and I wasn’t really enjoying football as much as I should have been, being a young boy.

“I went back and played with a boys club for a year, just playing with my mates and that to start enjoying my football again. Then I started to take it more seriously again and went to Queens Park in League Two in Scotland. I made my debut there at 16 and got my move to Hibs full-time.

“As a young boy being released, it’s not a good feeling. You feel a bit, I wouldn’t say embarrassed, but you feel as if you’re not good enough really and it knocked a lot of my confidence.

“I was like, ‘is this what I really want to do?’. I was obviously upset. I just wanted to go and enjoy my football again.

Growing up in Glasgow, Bradley played on the same streets as Kenny Dalglish had decades earlier. “There was a pitch literally 20 seconds’ walk across from my house. I can see it from my bedroom window so every day after school, I wouldn’t even go home and get changed out of my school uniform, it was just straight to the pitch. When I was younger there was always 10 or 20 people down at the pitch ready to play but nowadays that has changed. You look out the window and there’s never anybody at the pitch, they’re obviously on their computers and that so it’s different now.

“I think my age group would have been the last kind of generation to go out every day and play out on the streets and whatever. Obviously because of technology now a lot of young kids are more interested in that than going out in the freezing cold and playing football with their mates and having fun. I really enjoyed it at that time when I was young, just going out and playing football every day.” 

steven-bradley-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Steven Bradley celebrates his recent goal against Bohemians at Dalymount Park. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

Having made his debut for Hibs in 2020, Bradley went on loan to Ayr United of the Scottish second tier at the start of this season. The stint began brightly but was then stymied by injury, at which point he returned to Hibs and was given a brief chance to impress against Celtic by new manager Shaun Maloney, playing 19 minutes of a league defeat at Parkhead in January. 

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“After that, I knew I’d be on the bench and not getting the game time I needed, so when I spoke to him I asked if I could go back on loan”, says Bradley. 

“The only team I could go back to was Ayr United as I had played with two teams in Scotland. The gaffer here (Dundalk) made a phone call to Hibs and asked me to come over. I was really keen as soon as I heard. I wanted to try something different.” 

And thus it came to pass, with Bradley making an instant impact at Oriel Park. 

“I really enjoy the football over here. As a winger, I am getting a lot more chances and more time on the ball. So that suits me. It’s tough as well, physical-wise, I’m not the most physical player.” 

And what of the man with whom he shares a name?

“When I came there was a physio at Hibs who is Irish and he always said to me there’s a manager called Stephen Bradley at Shamrock Rovers, and we’d have a laugh about that. He gave me a text the other week there and we were just having a laugh about it but some of the stuff on Twitter and social media and that is a good laugh.” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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