Many observers were surprised when acclaimed former United States coach Bob Bradley assumed the reins at unfancied Norwegian Premier Division side Stabæk Fotball.
Promoted back to the top tier last year, Stabæk appointed Bradley in January on a three-year deal. Initial predictions of a scrap against relegation were swiftly revised when Stabæk won their opening two league games of the season. Despite a 2-0 home defeat by Molde FK on Sunday, Bradley's new employers are third in the embryonic standings.
Bradley, United States coach from 2006 to 2011, was in charge of the Egypt national team until 2013. Though he does not expect instant success in his new post, it has been an encouraging start. "I have to admit we were lucky to win against Brann [2-1 away on 6 April]," said the 56-year-old. "It was an important win for us, since we are a young side who are learning every week about what it takes to play in the Eliteserien.
"We try to work smart every day, and try to give the players an idea about what it takes to make a good team. They have responded very well so far."
Stabæk's star of the campaign to date has been 20-year-old striker Franck Boli. The Ivorian, who scored two superb solo goals against Brann, looks to have been inspired by Bradley's winter words of advice. "I said to him: 'Have you ever seen a player like Luis Suárez?' He fights, runs and tries to gain an advantage over the course of the 90 minutes. He is a nightmare for defenders. I want Franck to play in the same way."
If Boli continues to enhance his burgeoning reputation over the rest of the season, Stabæk might just sustain their competitiveness towards the top of the table. However, Bradley, who has the experience of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to call on, is not getting carried away. "It was a nice feeling to win the two first games, but we are well aware that the season lasts 30 matches," he said.
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