The Garrulous Jay – Potter Training

Publish date


On paper Graham Potter looked like the perfect candidate to take over the job of Chelsea manager after the dismissal of Thomas Tuchel last September. In the event he presided over one of the worst periods in the club’s recent history during his 206 days in charge. So where did it all go wrong and what lessons can be learnt?

Although Potter had not enjoyed a particularly distinguished playing career, he nevertheless boasted an impressive managerial CV by the time he took the up reins at Chelsea.

Academically, as well as his degree in Social Sciences, Potter also boasted an MSc in Leadership from Leeds Becket University.

He was appointed to his first managerial role with Swedish Club Östersunds FK in 2010, showing a willingness to take himself overseas to broaden his horizons. During his tenure the club enjoyed successive promotions, reaching the topflight of the Swedish league for the first time in their history.

After a year at Swansea City, Potter was appointed manager of Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion in May 2019. He guided the club to its highest ever finish of 9th in the 2021-22 season, before leaving for Chelsea shortly after the start of this season.

The team played 31 games under Potter, of which they lost 11, drew 8 and won 12, for a 39% win ratio. A record worse than all but one of the previous 17 managers to him.

So what went wrong for Potter at Stamford Bridge?

I think he was the wrong manager at the wrong club with the wrong players at the wrong time.

Wrong club – Potter’s lack of experience with a ‘leading’ team ultimately told when he made the move from the South Coast to the Kings Road. He had honed his skills working with clubs whose expectations were more modest. Like a fund manager that’s enjoyed success at a small institution moving to a global asset management house, Potter struggled to adapt.

Wrong players – According to Chelsea has lavished €250m on new players since the end of the 2021/22 season. Potter found himself managing a squad of expensively assembled individuals who were struggling to gel. This was akin to putting a UK Smaller Companies fund manager in charge of a poorly put-together portfolio of Global Blue Chip companies.

Wrong time – Following the sanctioning of previous owner, Roman Abramovich, the sale of the club was announced in May 2022 to a consortium headed by US billionaire, Todd Boehly, and private equity house, Clearlake Capital. In other words, Potter found himself working for a company that had recently been taken over and was under pressure to improve results…fast.

In other words, in my opinion the problem wasn’t Potter, and thus far the results seem to bear this out… Since his departure on the 2nd April there has been little sign of improvement.

As every fund manager knows, and every investor should understand, success involves playing to your strengths, getting your timing right, choosing your battles carefully…and patience.

Epilogue – Since leaving Brighton & Hove Albion, Potter’s old club have enjoyed a 50% win ratio under new manager, Roberto De Zerbi. They are currently 7th in the Premier League, four places above Chelsea.

Source where not referenced: Wikipedia.