Brighton manager Graham Potter is out of contract this summer and has recently been linked with the England job. A former Tottenham Hotspur academy coach, his Brighton side have risen up the table in recent years under his guidance. Whether he can maintain that success at a higher level remains to be seen, but new Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino would do well not to overlook him just yet.
Brighton and Hove Albion manager Graham Potter is not your average Championship boss. He was brought in with a reputation for knowing how to develop young players but turned the club’s fortunes around in his first season, leading them back into the Premier League after two decades away. It begs the question: Is he England material?
Brighton are now in fifth place in the Premier League and will move into the top four if they win against Liverpool on Saturday.
Graham Potter was thankful for the chance, despite the fact that a rural club in Sweden’s fourth division was hardly the ideal starting position for an ambitious manager.
He may have sunk without a trace since it was a jump into the unknown. Instead, Potter led Ostersunds FK to three promotions in five seasons, as well as their first major trophy and a Europa League berth.
His chances had been completely modified.
After leaving Exeter City to join Ostersund in February 2014, Potter resurrected the career of Douglas Bergqvist, a promising defender who had lost his way in the English system.
“I didn’t feel like I was receiving my fair share. Graham essentially sold me the fantasy on our first talk. They were in the second tier, and it may have seemed like a pipe dream, but it all came true “Bergqvist agrees.
“I don’t believe it’ll be reproduced in Swedish football, particularly at that scale and in such a short period of time.”
Bergqvist was one of numerous players who had become frustrated with their lack of advancement and were excited about the prospect of a new start in Sweden. Potter made them feel important in a manner that no one else had.
“Many of us felt lost, questioned, and rejected. He was a sucker for a good comeback story and those who had changed their lives for the better. He’s someone who has had a significant impact on not just my football career, but also my life. I grew into a more mature and courteous person. He was more interested in you as a person than in your football abilities.”
Potter was thoughtful and empathetic, and he contributed to Ostersund’s supportive atmosphere, where individuals were encouraged to be honest with one another. The ethos of an old-fashioned English dressing room stood in sharp contrast.
“Some things were challenging off the field when I moved away from home,” the 28-year-old says. “On the mental health front, he was a huge helper.” It wasn’t as widely discussed back then as it is today. He helped me and many other youngsters.
“We were in a fantastic atmosphere. He devised an alternative solution for you if you didn’t fit into the group, no matter how talented you were as a player. There was no one on the squad who was larger than the others.”
Bergqvist and Potter developed a good friendship and have remained in contact. Ostersund gained promotion to the top level for the first time in his second season with the club.
They were not intimidated, and they continued to play on the offensive end of the field, commanding games against clubs with much more resources. They won the Swedish Cup in April 2017.
“We played a possession-oriented brand of football. Very meticulous and foresightful. It was a high-risk, high-reward situation “Bergqvist agrees.
“He was just two, three, or four steps ahead of everyone else. He could always predict what the opponent would do. He was able to switch between various systems and employees. He was a master of strategy.”
Ostersund rose to attention with a run to the Europa League’s last 32, which featured wins against Galatasaray, Hertha Berlin, and Athletic Bilbao. Despite winning 2-1 at Emirates Stadium, they were ultimately eliminated by Arsenal.
Ostersund’s most prosperous era in history was headed by Potter.
Potter took over at Swansea City in the summer of that year, with the club trying to rebuild after returning to the Championship. In the UK, he was still relatively unknown, but he immediately won over his new recruits.
“We had a large meeting, and his exact words were ‘this isn’t a dictatorship,’” striker Oli McBurnie recalls. “He wanted to assist us as much as we wanted to assist him. He wanted to see you grow as a person as much as he did as a player. That was the first time I’d ever gotten that from a boss.
“The team had just been demoted, and a number of key players had left. It was a bit of a jumble. He recruited a large number of players from the under-23s. He was a huge proponent of player development. He was more than delighted to give them the chance to play if they had earned it.”
One of the major winners was McBurnie. He was entrusted to lead the line for the Swans after three years on the margins, and he had his finest season of his career, scoring 24 goals in 44 appearances.
“On a personal level, he is by far the finest manager I’ve ever had. He was really concerned about your well-being. Football is a results-driven sport, and you’re sometimes treated as if you’re a piece of meat. He went above and beyond to assist me with things he didn’t have to “The Scottish striker reminisces.
“He placed a great deal of faith in me. He provided me with the chance and the courage to keep going throughout the season. The manner we played football was also very appealing to me.”
Swansea’s identity as a passing team, which had suited them so well throughout their climb through the divisions, was restored by Potter. He urged his players to be courageous and stick to the game plan.
“He was more concerned with the performance than the outcome,” McBurnie continues. “I recall one game at Nottingham Forest,” said the player. We lost 2-1, but we had completely dominated them. That made him happier than games in which we won a win but didn’t play the way he wanted.
“His view was that if you got the performance correct, the outcome will usually take care of itself. It felt as though someone had blown new air into my lungs.”
Potter’s first season in charge resulted in a tenth-place finish, nine points short of the play-offs. His team was exciting to watch, but they didn’t get into their stride until it was too late to mount a challenge. The Premier League came knocking before they could build on it.
McBurnie recalls, “Everyone in that Swansea squad anticipated he’d do well at Brighton.” “He knows how to play football properly. He has a positive attitude on both sport and life. Boys would always play for him since he is such a kind guy. For a manager, they are excellent elements.”
For the past two seasons, Brighton had been on the verge of relegation. Potter was entrusted with driving them up the table while implementing a more daring style of play when he took over from Chris Hughton in May 2019.
Dale Stephens, who has since joined Burnley, adds, “I was pleased with how he perceived the game and how he wanted to play.” “He took over a club that was really excellent defensively but needed a little bit in the offensive department.”
“He wasn’t going to make any drastic changes in the next two weeks. He understood it would take time, but it was clear from the start where he wanted the team and the club to go.”
Potter focused on implementing a more fluid offensive strategy throughout the preseason. Everything came together on the first day at Vicarage Road, offering an early hint of what this new Brighton may achieve.
“We had all these fresh concepts,” Stephens says, “and they’re clearly going to be tried in the first game.” “We went to Watford and defeated them 3-0. This instills confidence in the team that we’re on the right road and doing the right things.”
The players never worried when Brighton’s form slipped. Potter’s conviction was firm, and his preparation was meticulous as always.
“No stone was left unturned,” the midfielder adds. “You knew exactly what you had to do from Monday am. Every week, he’d set a new task for you. You may be playing one system one week and another the next week.
“We’d have a clear strategy once he and his backroom staff studied a team. Nothing was left to chance for him. You may still lose, but he had a good plan and followed through with it by holding frequent video meetings and showcasing recordings of what he desired.”
At Ostersund and Swansea, Potter had found success with younger, more impressionable players. Despite the fact that Brighton had a more seasoned team, they reacted to his approach with the same zeal.
Stephens continues, “I was 30 years old and still learning a lot about the game.” “He’s piqued my interest in being a manager, and I had a great time working with him.” He had a strategy for everyone he played against.”
The Seagulls have finished 15th and 16th in the last two seasons, with the same number of points, but their performances have always given them hope that their fortunes would improve. Now they have, and Brighton are in fifth position in the Premier League heading into Saturday’s trip to Liverpool.
Despite the fact that Potter, 46, is prospering at Brighton, many feel he has much more potential. Several of his former teammates believe he has the potential to lead England in the future.
“Nothing is too huge for him, in my opinion. I could see him taking over as England’s manager someday; he’s capable of going all the way. The only question is whether or not individuals at the top are prepared to believe in him and his vision “Bergqvist agrees.
“We all stated at Swansea that we could see him becoming England manager,” McBurnie agreed. “That’s how much we believed in him. I honestly believe he has the ability to fly as high and as far as he desires. There isn’t much that can stop him, in my opinion.”