high hoops | 

Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley looking to find flaws in the Belgian way he admires so much

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley has ambitions of coaching in Europe and beyond. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Belgian talent: Kevin De Bruyne© Getty Images

Aidan FitzmauriceIndependent.ie

A self-confessed obsessive about the Belgian way of doing things, Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley says he’d love the opportunity to manage a club on the continent.

But in the short term, the goal for Dubliner Bradley is to see if his side can raise their game from the impressive levels they showed at home to Swedish side Djurgardens last week when they face a superior team from Belgium’s top flight tonight in the Europa Conference League.

The Hoops camp claimed disappointment at ‘only’ drawing 0-0 at home to Djurgardens, while in the other group game last week Norwegian side Molde also drew, with Gent.

Bradley stands over his pre-tournament analysis that Molde are the strongest side in the group, but he’s also fearful of a Gent outfit who are fifth in their domestic league.

“They are better than Djurgardens, maybe different in how they play, definitely different in terms of their system, and how they approach the game tactically, that’s slightly different to what we faced last week,” says Bradley.

“They have real threats wide, both wing-backs are like wingers. Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, who plays in behind the front two is a very good player, technically very good.

“Both midfielders behind him have lots of energy, the centre-forwards are a real handful in terms of dangerous crosses into the box, and they are a real danger from set plays.”

With a Belgian manager and 10 Belgian players used in their most recent league game, Gent have stronger roots than the likes of reigning champions Club Brugge and their many imports.

Bradley (37) concedes he’s a fan of the Belgian game, a long-standing interest which went up in his role as a scout for Arsenal before he was appointed Rovers manager in 2016, and a system which helped produce the current golden generation of players like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.

“I had a real interest in Belgian football when I started out coaching and scouting for a number of different reasons. I came over here a few times to watch certain coaches train and certain teams train and certain private academies train. It’s always something that’s interested me. They just have their own way of playing, their own system and their own principles,” Bradley said in Gent yesterday.

He’s not touting himself for a job in Belgium but, having turned down the chance to move to Lincoln City last summer, he is ambitious.

“I would love to manage in different parts of the world. I think it would be a really good challenge, be it Scandinavia or around Europe or different parts of the world, not just Europe.

“It’s definitely something I would be open to at some point in my career and it’s something I have always looked at and thought that I’d be very interested.

“It’s definitely something that I have always said to the people close to me and my family that I would love that challenge at some point, a totally different environment, a different culture and learning about that and learning a new language.”

Gent v Shamrock Rovers

Live, Virgin Media Two, 5.45

Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices