Dee Bradley: “Signing with Durham has meant everything”

Dee Bradley of Durham battles with Carrie Jones of Manchester United.
Dee Bradley of Durham battles with Carrie Jones of Manchester United during the FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup at Maiden Castle Sports Park on October 14, 2021. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Growing up around football

Born in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, Dee Bradley was exposed to football at a young age when she started playing at just four years old.

“Even at a very young age, I knew I wanted to pursue soccer. My dad was a diehard Manchester United fan and my coach. So we grew up watching soccer on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Everything just kind of revolved around soccer, it was always our priority.” she said.

“I was very, very shy growing up. I wouldn’t go into anyone’s house without hiding behind my parents. But when I stepped on a soccer field, it never affected me. I always felt like I kind of expressed myself a bit more on the pitch. That’s when knew that soccer was what I wanted to pursue. I remember my dad thinking, ‘this is not going to work. She’s not going to play in front of these people.’ But being on the pitch is a sense of comfort, it all worked out.”

After joining a travel team, Bradley was spotted by her former college coach. It was then that her journey in professional football commenced.

Pushing through injury

Competing in the first division of NCAA, Bradley captained Old Dominion University for several years as a midfielder. Unfortunately, her senior year was cut short due to a season-ending injury.

“I was at Old Dominion for five years. My senior year, I tore my ACL. After my fifth year, my plan was to go straight into Durham. But then I ended up tearing my ACL again. After injuring the same knee twice, I took about a year and a half off.”

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After taking some time off, Bradley was eager to make a move to Europe. Specifically, to play for Durham.

“I knew that I kind of wanted to play with Durham because I knew two players there already. It always helps when you know someone, and she was also coming off an ACL injury. So in the back of my head I was like ‘right, I’m going to work as hard as I can to get there. If I can get there, I’ll take it one day at a time.’ And if it didn’t work out, at least I could have said that I tried. I knew that coming off of two knee surgeries in the same knee that it might take me a bit and it did.

“It took me a bit to get into the swing of things again and at this level. But, it ended up working out in my favour. Hard work pays off.”

Signing a new contract with Durham

Bradley joined the wildcats in 2021 and extended her contract with the side in February this year. After coming back from injury, signing for the English side has meant everything for the American.

“I feel like everything that I worked for throughout my whole life was to sign that piece of paper. When signing for Durham, I felt very accomplished. I don’t like to pat myself on the back, but I was very proud of myself at that moment.

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“I have a lot of pride. All I wanted was an opportunity and Durham gave me that opportunity. I just needed to get one foot in the door and then the rest was in my hands. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough mentally because you just want things to work out right away. But it just takes time.

“I have so much gratitude towards Durham for giving me the opportunity to play and get back on my feet again. I’ve been able to find the love for the game again after being out for so long.”

International ambitions with Ireland

With both of her parents being from Ireland, Bradley has spent plenty of time in the country while growing up. Now, she has her sights set on an international call up to represent her second home.

“My ultimate goal is to represent Ireland. That would be amazing, I’d be over the moon. Ireland has always been a part of me. Half of my family is there, so Ireland feels like my second home. If I had the opportunity to represent the country and my family, I’d be emotional. It would come with so much pride and be a dream come true.”

Until then, Bradley continues to show her talent in the league with Durham as they continue to impress this season.

“The girls here at Durham are amazing. When I arrived, they took me in and they have been incredible. We’re all a family here.”

“We’re going to take each game one at a time and get as many points as we can. We have the players to do so, and I want to continue to make an impact every time that I step on the pitch.”

Durham currently sit fourth in the Championship and will next travel to face Lewes on March 20th.

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