Nine miles from Stamford Bridge, in a less affluent part of west London, news of Graham Potter’s anticipated arrival at Chelsea was digested with plenty of interest.
Gareth Southgate’s job as England manager remains one of the safest in the business. But those in charge of succession planning at the FA have already identified Potter as a lead candidate to replace the current boss, whenever that time may be.
It is a no-brainer, of course: Potter is unquestionably one of the best — if not the very best — young English managers. His achievements at Brighton, while remaining staunchly loyal to a clear philosophy, have garnered admirers far and wide. There was little surprise at the FA’s Wembley HQ on Wednesday as details of Chelsea’s attempts to appoint Potter into one of the leading managerial roles in world football emerged.
If the 47-year-old can be successful with Chelsea then the England job should be a breeze.
Graham Potter has also been identified as a long-term replacement for Gareth Southgate
All that is in the future and the FA will continue to keep close tabs on how Potter fares. The here and now for Potter, though, is the prospect of taming the Chelsea madhouse. Leaving the stability of the Amex for the unpredictability of Stamford Bridge isn’t a decision he is taking lightly.
On the face of it, Potter and Chelsea will not appear a natural fit. What is clear, however, is why Chelsea owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital have taken a shine to the Brighton boss.
He will provide an unwavering commitment to an attractive style of play. No matter the consequences, Potter demands his players stick to his vision. Even in the tightest of spots, he expects his players to look for a pass. Row Z isn’t in Potter’s playbook. Trust your own ability, trust your teammates, trust the process.
Potter’s work at Brighton while adhering to a strict philosophy has drawn high praise
There have been occasions when Brighton’s commitment to Potter’s vision has cost them goals — but that is a danger he is willing to accept.
Those who have worked closely with him say the coach’s most valuable asset is in his messaging to the players. He simplifies his communication, his instructions are clear and concise.
Similarly, his tactical planning is said to be chillingly precise. Nothing is off the cuff, everything is methodical.
‘There’s never a wasted pass, everything is on purpose,’ said one well-placed source. ‘He watches the game two passes in front of everyone else.’
Although his family is settled in Brighton Potter wants to manage in the Champions League
It’s fair to say that Potter has reveled in the way Brighton are structured. The alignment between recruitment and the playing philosophy has provided the optimal platform for him to mold a team in his image.
There are no immediate guarantees that he will be afforded the same conditions at Chelsea. Like with any job change, there will be a period of adaptation — perhaps the biggest of all being how he deals with some of the highest-profile footballers and their egos.
At Brighton, Potter is the most important person — at least in terms of football — at the club. The players have bought into that ethos. At Chelsea, there are players who believe they are more important than the manager. How he approaches that situation could make or break his reign.
Former PSG and Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is another favorite for the job
Potter will back himself. In November 2020, he dropped striker Neal Maupay for a clash against Tottenham amid concerns over the Frenchman’s attitude and an alleged bust-up with a colleague at the club’s training ground. In March this year, Potter axed star midfielder Yves Bissouma for a game against Newcastle. Sources close to that decision told Sportsmail the coach sought counsel from a core group of senior players, who believed it would benefit the team if Bissouma was left out.
Potter was a journeyman who briefly played for Southampton in the Premier League
It is likely Potter will assemble a similar leadership group at Chelsea’s Cobham HQ should he take the reins. History tells us he should be careful about who he leans on.
Yet Brighton’s players will tell you he isn’t to be crossed — Chelsea’s superstars are likely to find that out soon enough.
Potter, born in Solihull, was a journeyman player who started with Birmingham and featured briefly in the Premier League with Southampton. He moved into coaching and worked in Sweden with Ostersund, leading them to promotion three times in five years. Fiercely ambitious, Potter’s calm exterior is in stark contrast to his overwhelming desire to compete at the very top of the game.
He is settled at Brighton. Importantly so are his family, who took a while to transition back into life in the UK following seven years with Ostersund before joining Swansea in 2018. But Potter wants to manage in the Champions League.
He was a little bruised by the lack of interest from Manchester United following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking last year.
Tottenham have long been admirers of Potter, but the prospect of working alongside chairman Daniel Levy isn’t necessarily a match made in heaven. Jurgen Klopp has only recently signed a new contract at Liverpool, while Manchester City wants Pep Guardiola to extend his stay.
That leaves Chelsea — well, at least Boehly hopes it does.
POTTER’S BRIGHTON RECORD
Games played: 134
Goals scored: 161
Goals against: 172