Graham Potter has been confirmed as Chelsea's new head coach. Here's the rundown on how he got into management and his unorthodox career path from student football to Stamford Bridge via Scandinavia...
Potter arrives at Chelsea after three record-breaking years as head coach at Brighton & Hove Albion, where he showed himself to be an innovative manager ready to embrace new ideas, as well as an expert at developing individual players to the peak of their abilities while building a cohesive team with a clear identity and strong tactical understanding, able to consistently punch above their weight.
Prior to his time at the Amex Stadium, Potter had taken an unconventional route to the Premier League as a coach after a playing career as a left-back spent mostly in the English second division in his native Midlands, at Birmingham City, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, although he did spent one season in the Premier League with Southampton.
After hanging up his boots, Potter decided to focus on furthering his education to prepare himself for a career in coaching, earning a degree in social sciences from the Open University before undertaking a master’s degree on leadership and emotional intelligence at Leeds Metropolitan University.
It was at the latter institution he picked up some of his earliest coaching experience, working with the Leeds Metropolitan University and Combined Universities sides, as well as acting as football development manager for the University of Hull and technical director for the Ghanaian national women’s team at the 2007 World Cup.
He began his path to the professional game in earnest when he moved to Sweden at the end of 2010, taking charge of Ostersunds in the country’s fourth tier and launching their incredible rise up the leagues to become one of the leading teams in the top division, winning their first domestic trophy and qualifying for European football.
Amazingly, he guided the club to promotion as champions in both of his first two seasons in management, before taking them into the top flight with a second-place finish at the third attempt in 2015.
His Ostersunds team were instantly competitive in the Allsvenskan, finishing in the top half during all three of their seasons in the first division under Potter, but it was his penultimate campaign which provided the highlight of his time in Sweden, when he led them to victory over Norrkoping in the Swedish Cup final, lifting the only piece of major silverware in the club’s history. His own role in that triumph was acknowledged by a second consecutive Allsvenskan Manager of the Year award.
Potter would break more ground in his last season in Sweden, as Ostersunds defeated more established European sides like Galatasaray and PAOK to qualify for the Europa League, before progressing from a group which included Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin. They were eventually eliminated by Arsenal in the first knock-out round, but Potter earned widespread praise for masterminding a 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium in the second leg of that tie.
He was then offered a return to Britain to manage Swansea City for the 2018/19 season, following their relegation from the Premier League. It was an impressive homecoming, as he set about rebuilding a new, youthful Swansea side, which launched a late bid for the play-offs as they hit their stride in the second half of the campaign, as well as reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals, where they initially led Manchester City 2-0 before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.
Having shown he could replicate his exciting and bold methods from Sweden in English football, Brighton were convinced to offer Potter the chance to lead them in the Premier League from the start of 2019/20. On the South Coast, he set about the task of reinventing the team as one with the bravery and ambition to go toe-to-toe against their more illustrious top-flight rivals and impose their own style on games, rather than merely aiming to preserve their Premier League status.
It had a near instant impact, as they defeated Watford 3-0 on Potter’s debut as a Premier League manager. His first season with Brighton saw them pick up a club-record 41 points in the top division, a tally they matched in 2020/21 while also earning praise for their fearless, attacking brand of football and ability to put opponents on the back foot. His second season at the Amex Stadium also broke Brighton’s records for Premier League goals scored, goals conceded and clean sheets.
Their manager wasn’t finished building, though, as he smashed his own club record by amassing 51 points in the Premier League last season, guiding the Seagulls to a top-half finish in the Premier League for the first time ever. In the process, Potter broke further club records, including their biggest top-flight win when they defeated Manchester United 4-0 in May, a result which officially ended Man Utd’s chances of catching Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification.
The upward curve of Potter’s Brighton side continued into the start of the current campaign, when they won four and lost just one of their opening six Premier League fixtures, with a 5-2 win over Leicester City in his last game in charge taking them up to fourth in the table.