FEATURE: Dee Bradley On Her Journey To Durham

Dee Bradley’s journey to Durham has been far from a conventional one…

From being brought up in a soccer-mad household in Pennsylvania, there have been no shortage of twists and turns in the midfielder’s route to Maiden Castle.

Signed midway through last season, Bradley has quickly engrained herself in the first-team squad and capped-off a fine pre-season with a goal against Newcastle United last weekend.

But there was a time in the not-too-distant past when the American wondered whether she would kick a ball again after a second ACL injury in quick succession.

Although the road to Durham has been a tricky and perhaps different one, Bradley’s roots in football are familiar to many.

Drawn into the game by her Manchester United-supporting family, she has never looked back.

“My Dad has always been a football player, so at the age of four I was kicking a ball with my brother,” she explained.

“I have a twin brother, so I just grew up playing with him.

“We played with a little micro soccer team from ages four to seven, and then as we got more competitive I started playing with my local club team. I then played for a travel team before I went to High School – and after that I went to college.”

Bradley elected to join Old Dominion University and enjoyed a successful spell under Scottish coach Angie Hind.

Named team captain in both 2017 and 2018, the accolades were just rewards for the hard work put in during her younger days. 

“I knew at a very young age that I wanted to play football for as long as I could,” said Bradley.

“It took a lot of sacrifice and it’s a lot of hours, but it was nice to put in all the effort and get to a college that I felt like was competitive and at a high level.

“I was pretty lucky.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Bradley, though.

It was while at Univeristy that the midfielder suffered her two successive knee injuries – which left her fearing for her career.

The support of family helped her through a  difficult spell, but there were of course doubts when the second injury occurred.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out,” admitted Bradley.

“But with the help of my little army at home I got through it.

“The first one wasn’t the best recovery, and the second one I was devestated. I felt my playing career was done. I didn’t want to go through the ACL process again, but it was literally a couple of months after playing that I did it again.

“Mentally, it was really, really tough – but it was worth it because I’m here now.”

Now a regular in the squad at Durham, Bradley’s arrival in the North East coincided with a global pandemic – which led to a rather uncoventional start to life in England.

“I decided to choose a really good time to come during COVID!” she joked.

“It was strange in the sense that it was just football and school, but I don’t regret for a single second coming when I did and meeting the team, coaching staff and everyone.

“It all worked out in the end.”

And key to that settling in process were two familiar faces from Bradley’s University days.

“I was at Old Dominion for half a year and then Kathy [Hill] came.

“We played two seasons together and then Iris [Achterhof] was the year after me, so it was nice to have a connection when I came here with those two.”

So how has the American found English football thus far?

“It’s very different,” she said.

“I think the style is completely different and people here read the game better. No offence to my fellow Americans, but there’s more knowledge when playing and it’s definitely brought a better side of me out when I play.”

Bradley has also been able to test herself against higher-level opposition, with cup games against West Ham United and Everton handing her an opportunity to play against international players.

It’s an experience that the midfielder is grateful for – with her start against the Hammers a particular high point.

“Honestly, it was like a dream come true.

“When I played in that West Ham game I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders and I was like ‘wow, I’ve actually done something.’

“Of course, we didn’t get the result we wanted but it was such a big moment in my playing career to even be selected to start for that game. It was huge.”

So what next for Bradley?

She has been a regular in pre-season and will continue to form part of the first-team squad moving forward into the new FA Women’s Championship campaign – during which the Wildcats will again be aiming high.

And the midfielder is keen to play whatever role is necessary to help the side throughout the season.

“If I can come on this season and fill the shoes of the likes of Mac, Beth, Mollie and keep that standard high then I’ll be very happy.

“As long as the team does well, I’ll be happy.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.