why Chelsea bet on Graham Potter?


He is not the best known, especially in the other major championships, but we will nevertheless have to get used to his face. At 47, Graham Potter has been appointed to succeed Thomas Tuchel and redress the sporting situation at Chelsea. The dismissal of the German was as much a surprise as the appointment of the one who was still coach of Brighton a few days ago. Without being a big name in his field, this tall, slender blond has built a solid reputation in England and Wales, but also in Sweden, where he gave birth to his legend, to the point of being preferred to Mauricio Pochettino and even Zinedine Zidane. On closer inspection, it’s a matter of destiny, of unconventional working methods, all sprinkled with a bit of magic, as only sport can offer.

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Let’s say it right away, it didn’t come down to the CV. The former central defender was content with a second-class career, the peak of which was a handful of Premier League games with Southampton and a selection with the English Espoirs in 1996. Less brilliant than some of his generation (Beckham , the Neville brothers, Butt, Southgate), he quickly stopped at the age of 30 to embrace the destiny of a coach. “I was a pretty bad playeracknowledged the person concerned Wales Online in 2018. I knew I was not going to have the opportunities as a player with a star career. My mother always pushed me to continue my studies and I would like to think that it made me more complete.

A college-educated coach

From the start, Potter denotes. His playing career not yet over, he obtained a first degree in social sciences at the University of Hull, then, later, a master’s degree « in leadership and emotional intelligence » at the faculty of Leeds. “I needed to try to gain confidence. I didn’t just want to be the ex-footballer. I wanted to be more than that and I liked to learn”he continues. “Without these experiences in higher education, I could not have done this worksupports the one whose Guardian painted the portrait in 2016. I learned a more holistic approach and prepared me for the experience of working abroad, where your cultural beliefs are challenged and, at times, upset.”

At the same time, he trades the benches of the university for the sidelines. His first experiences took place with university teams. He even participated in the 2007 Women’s World Cup as Ghana’s technical director. Then came the phone call in December 2010 that would change his life. It’s Daniel Kindberg on the other end of the line. This former military officer offers him to take charge of Östersunds Fotbollsklubb (ÖFK), a very young Swedish club born from a merger, penniless, and which has just come down to the 4th division where everything is to be rebuilt. “We had almost nothing: two players, a stadium, a part-time employee and an annual budget of €300,000”traced the President to ESPN in 2017.

Östersunds madness

The latter has set himself a completely crazy ambition. He is aiming for neither more nor less than the Champions League. Suffice to say that the road will be long. To quench his thirst for success, he seeks a method as improbable as his goal of C1. It was then that a certain Karin Wahlén appeared in her life. Originally from Östersunds and the daughter of a former teacher who became a member of the club, this head of a communication agency in Stockholm was brought up with a certain attraction for football and books. After a first missed date, Kindberg not having shown up, she ends up getting his interview and talks to him straight away about her rather original idea to help football players progress: to introduce them to culture.

It is for her to“a key that opens doors and allows you to feel at home in places where, without a family name or a well-stocked wallet, you would not be comfortable. » She leaves with a gun, convinced that at best, we will laugh in her face. “As I was convinced that he would say no to me, I was not stressedshe tells the World. I started talking about Bourdieu, the importance of cultural capital and how we were going to use it to win games. This is where the irrational comes into play. Wahlén’s speech is a hit with those who intend to lead their club differently. “It was perfectly in line with what we were trying to do.” And to lead this disruptive project, he needs an unconventional coach: Graham Potter.

Develop players and men

Despite the -25° on his arrival in Sweden and the 5-hour drive away from the capital, the young Englishman is not the type to be scared off. A man of challenges nourished by his university career, he agrees to set up these original working methods, while applying a doctrine of personal development. In addition to training, players take part in reading workshops, attend exhibitions, discuss with writers. “We did theatre, we did painting, we did dance, we did singing. I’ve done all of that but it doesn’t get any easier! It took us out of our comfort zone, but above all it helped us to unite, to be a team.rolls out midfielder, Jamie Hopcutt.

Eljest (diverge in the regional language of Jämtland) becomes the buzzword at ÖFK but it works. Players buy in and, more importantly, win games. We can even speak of a miracle. The club went up to the 3rd and then to the 2nd division, which had never happened before in its history. Promoted to cultural coach, Karin Wahlén then moved up a gear. It makes the theater workshop compulsory for the first team, the youth teams and the staff in order to perform in public. All this also costs energy and the start of the season in the antechamber of the Swedish elite is completely missed. However, after the evening of the premiere, the players celebrate, relieved and proud, and, as if by magic, start winning again…

The Europa League as a springboard

The experience is so extensive that the ÖFK simply has to refuse two invitations to major stages in the capital to dance there. Swan Lake. All the same, it is a question of keeping one’s head in football, even if each season, and the growing popularity of the club, is entitled to its share of cultural and increasingly political initiatives (demonstration against the extreme right, message of support for the LGBT-friendly community, etc.). Two years after the last climb, Potter secured the winning ticket to the Premier League, where he finished 7th in his first year. A year later, it is the consecration with a success in the Swedish Cup. It’s not yet the Champions League dreamed of by Kindberg but this qualification for the Europa League looks like a World Cup victory for the Swedes.

Better than that, the club will shine there, leaving Galatasaray, Fola Esch and PAOK during the preliminary rounds, then finishing 2nd in their group on equal points with Athletic, ahead of Zorya Louhansk and Hertha Berlin. The great adventure will stop dead in the round of 16. Östersunds are beaten by Arsenal (0-3, 2-1), not without having shaken the Gunners on the return since they were leading from a break after 25 minutes of play. This elimination also marks the end of the story between Potter and ÖFK. The technician leaves the club in 5th place in the Allsvenskan, the best ranking in its history. He managed the feat of propelling the club to Europe, in addition to giving himself a big boost for his career.

A half-hearted passage in Swansea before flying to the PL

Surprisingly, it’s not the Premier League coming for him. He joined Swansea, relegated to the Championship in the summer of 2018, but the results were disappointing, despite an enticing game. The Swans finished 10th, while providing content unanimously recognized by observers, especially after a stunning FA Cup quarter-final loss to Manchester City 3-2, after leading 2-0. This will be enough to convince Brighton to come and get him the following summer against 3.5 M€. Potter embodies this new generation of English coaches with innovative ideas. Faced with the behemoths of the championship, he must find solutions, as in Sweden, to allow the club of the seaside city to last in the Premier League.

Intended to fight for maintenance, the Seagulls fulfill their mission, while developing an offensive game. Season after season, the team even progresses. Thanks to players like Neal Maupay, Leandro Trossard, Marc Cucurella, Ben White, Yves Bissouma and goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, Brighton finished in 9th place last May with the 6th defense in the championship. Enough performance to convince Chelsea to offer him a golden contract and position. “It’s nice to be able to take the next step and be able to work with an exciting group of players. Playing at the top of the table and trying to create a winning team is a fantastic opportunity for me. The Blues are coming out of a transfer window at €280m and are waiting for solutions, surely other than putting Sterling and co on the boards.

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