Graham Potter phenomenally rose from the Swedish 4th division to the very top of English football due to his unconventional coaching methods.
Chelsea recently announced Graham Potter as their new head coach, with the English manager signing a 5-year contract at Stamford Bridge.
The 47-years-old becomes the first managerial appointment of the Blues’ new owner, Todd Boehly.
Potter replaces Thomas Tuchel who got sacked after Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Champions League and having started the new season in bad form — despite spending a record £273.5 million in the transfer window.
In this post, FootballOrbit chronicles the career of Chelsea’s new manager who has had a phenomenal rise from the Swedish 4th division to the very top of English football.
Graham Stephen Potter was born on the 20th of May 1975 in Solihull, England. Solihull is about 7 miles south-east of Birmingham.
He was a former player and played as a left-back. He played for various teams that includes Birmingham City, Stoke City, Southampton, West Brom and Reading in a career that lasted 13 years.
He admitted that he wasn’t really a top player in his playing days:
“I was obviously never good enough to play at a top level, or even anywhere close to that, if I’m being honest. That’s the reality. But I met lots of really good people and I was grateful for the time I had”.
“If you can have a career as a footballer for 13 years then you’re really lucky, but there will probably be plenty of supporters up and down the country saying that I wasn’t a top player, to put it kindly. That’s for sure”.
Potter graduated from the Open University in December 2005 and earned a degree in Social Sciences.
He worked as a football development manager for the University of Hull and as technical director for the Ghanaian women’s team at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
He became assistant coach for the England Universities Squad, before joining Leeds Metropolitan University in a similar role. While at Leeds, he completed a master’s in Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.
Six years after his retirement, Potter started his managerial career in 2011 with Swedish club Östersund — who were playing in the fourth division then.
But amazingly, he guided the club to three promotions which saw them reach the Swedish top flight (Allsvenskan) for the first time in their history in 2015.
Östersund impressively finished in 8th place in their debut season in the top flight and earned praises for their beautiful playing style.
In April 2017, Potter led his team to win the Swedish domestic cup, known as Svenska Cupen — defeating their opponents 4-1 in the final.
This earned them a place in the 2017/18 Europa League qualifying rounds.
They defeated Galatasaray, Fola Esch and PAOK to secure qualification for the Europa League group stage for the first time ever.
In their Europa League group, Östersund finished second — level on points with Athletico Bilbao.
During the knockout stages, they were eliminated in the round of 32 by Arsenal, despite defeating the Gunners 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the 2nd leg.
They had lost the 1st leg 3-0 at home to Arsene Wenger’s side, who won 4-2 on aggregate.
Östersund ended the 2017/18 domestic league season in 5th place, and it proved to be Potter’s last season at the club.
During his time in Sweden, Potter won the Swedish Football Awards Manager of the Year twice (2016 and 2017) and the Swedish Sports Awards Coach of the Year in 2017.
In June 2018, after 7 years with Östersund; Graham Potter was appointed as manager of Welsh club Swansea City — who just got relegated from the Premier League to the Championship .
He led Swansea to the quarter-finals of the 2018/19 FA Cup and secured a 10th-place finish in the league.
After Chris Hughton was dismissed as manager of Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion at the end of the 2018/19 season, Potter was approached to replace him.
Swansea initially rejected the move. However, Potter informed them of his desire to leave.
He was offered a new lucrative contract to remain at the club in a deal that would have made him one of the highest earning managers in the Championship.
He rejected the new deal as he didn’t want to lose the rare opportunity of managing a Premier League club.
At last, he was allowed to leave with Swansea receiving about £3m in compensation.
Graham Potter was appointed as head coach of Brighton & Hove Albion on the 20th of May 2019, signing a 4-year contract.
He won his first match 3-0 away to Watford, in what was also his Premier League debut.
Potter successfully guided Brighton to Premier League safety in his debut season with the Seagulls.
The club also recorded their highest points (41) and goals (39) in the Premier League — finishing in 15th position.
Potter’s second year in charge of Brighton ended with a record-equalling points tally of 41 points — same as the previous season.
They finished in 16th position — one place below the 2019/20 campaign.
The Seagulls scored 40 goals in the EPL, conceded 46, had a minus 6 goal difference and kept 12 clean sheets. These were all new club-record stats for Brighton in the Premier League.
In January 2022, Potter tested positive for COVID-19 and took time out to recover.
In May, he led Brighton to a stunning home 4-0 defeat of Manchester United — ending the Red Devils’ UEFA Champions League hopes.
The victory was also Brighton’s biggest top flight result.
At the end of the 2021/22 Premier League season, Potter’s Brighton achieved their highest finish in the top flight after ending the campaign in 9th position.
They also recorded their highest ever EPL goal tally of 42 and got 51 points — 10 points higher than their previous record of 41.
Despite losing some key players like Marc Cucurella, Neal Maupay and Yves Bissouma, Brighton started the new season firing on all cylinders.
They defeated Manchester United 2-1 on the opening game of season — which saw Potter became the first Brighton manager to win at Old Trafford.
Furthermore, Brighton beat Leicester City 5-2 on the 4th of September and it was the first time the Seagulls have ever scored five goals in a Premier League match.
On the 8th of September 2022, Brighton announced that Potter would be departing the club for Chelsea.
His departure will be along with 5 members of his backroom staff namely: his assistant Billy Reid, first-team coaches Bjorn Hamberg and Bruno, goalkeeping coach Ben Roberts and assistant head of recruitment Kyle Macaulay (who has been with him since his Ostersunds days).
“I am very disappointed that Graham will be leaving us. He has done exceptionally well over the past three-and-a-bit seasons, he is an exceptional head coach and an exceptional person. He will be hugely missed at our football club”.Brighton Chairman Tony Bloom on Graham Potter’s exit
Chelsea reportedly paid Brighton a total of £21.5m in compensation for Potter and his backroom staff.
Potter departs Brighton with the club sitting 4th on the Premier League table — having won 13 points in the opening 6 games.
Chelsea officially appointed Graham Potter as their new head coach — with a 5-year deal — on the 8th of September 2022.
The Blues have made a nauseating start to the new season and would welcome a breath of fresh air from their new English manager.
Graham Potter’s managerial style and tactics
Potter is known for building teams that play an attacking game with a fluid passing style when in possession of the ball while applying intense pressure when off the ball.
He has been recognised for his progressive and unconventional coaching methods.
He once described his teams as “tactically flexible, attacking, and possession-based”.
He switches his systems frequently depending on the opponents and circumstance.
Potter’s teams are capable of playing numerous systems in a match. They can start a match one way, and then halfway through they start playing a different system, and then they might even end up with a third style — with all the players exactly aware of their responsibilities.
At Östersund, he regularly uses a flexible 3-5-2 formation with the focus being to keep possession of the ball.
In his only season at Swansea, Potter used 10 different formations and his team completed the most passes per 90 minutes in the Championship.
During his time at Brighton, he regularly employs a 3-4-2-1, 4-4-2 and 4-1-4-1 formation for his team.
He also develops and builds good rapport with his players.
At Östersund, Potter managed 249 matches, won 127, drew 60 and lost 62 — recording 51.0% winning percentage
At Swansea, he managed 51 games, won 21, drew 11 and lost 19 — with 41.2% winning percentage.
At Brighton, he oversaw 135 matches, won 42, drew 46 and lost 47 — managing 31.1% winning percentage.
Much is expected from Graham Potter at Chelsea, although, it seems like the owners are ready to give him time and huge influence at Stamford Bridge.
Did you know?
During Graham Potter’s reign at Brighton, he led the club to at least one victory over each of Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.