There is a different look to Chelsea this week as new head coach Graham Potter follows our new owners into Stamford Bridge. Blues legend Pat Nevin looks ahead to what he expects from that fresh combination while sharing his personal experience of why a change in ownership often leads to a change in the dug-out...
In a week when we have changed our manager you might think that is the only possible place to start, but of course it isn’t here in the UK. After reigning for more than 70 years, the nation is mourning Queen Elizabeth II’s passing. There are many Chelsea fans who are loyal and royal to the core, and like them we all share our thoughts for Her Majesty and for the loss to her family.
All change at Chelsea
At Chelsea we have had a change in ownership in the very recent past and now there has been a change in management, too. It is only right to mention that Thomas Tuchel will be forever remembered for bringing the Champions League trophy to the Bridge after that magical night in Porto. He also helped guide us through the tough times of Covid and then the difficulties of sanctions, staying calm and controlled most of the time, while under great stress and uncertainty.
However he has now gone and as usual when there is a change at Chelsea my phone went into meltdown with what felt like every media outlet trying to get my viewpoint last Wednesday. I was in Amsterdam getting ready for the Ajax versus Rangers game and was hoping for an hour in bed in the afternoon before the match, following a 4.30am start to get over there. No chance!
New owners bring new ideas
For all the angles that this change has been considered at, one is particularly pertinent to my own history. Having once come in as chief executive of a top-level Scottish club along with a new owner, we did bring a different set of ideas to the table. The hope was that we could work in tandem with the incumbent manager as continuity generally isn’t a bad thing, even in the short-to-medium term, when you are running a new organisation.
Within days, the manager was gone. There was no falling out, he wasn’t a bad coach, and he was a likeable chap, but in the end the visions were incompatible. He knew it as well as us new owners, and that is why it was him who jumped rather than us pushing him, or he jumped on a plane home to Finland to be more accurate. I wish he would have mentioned it to us before he made his way to the airport though.
There are, however, always some tensions in times of change and as every Chelsea fan knows well enough by now, time soothes, understanding grows and we accept life must go on with the new man in place with his own vision.
Looking to the future
Graham Potter has come in and we all wish him the very best in his endeavours to build that holistic vision he shares with the new ownership. I can’t wait to see how he implements his ideas, as those methods have been liked, respected and fairly successful everywhere he has been. Now he will have to get rid of that little word, ‘fairly’, as the expectations at Chelsea are very high indeed.
What would be good, is if he and his staff are treated fairly themselves. It takes some time to build a football team, it takes a bit longer to build a new ethos at a club. The club has had an obvious philosophy for the past two decades, and that has been win, win and win again. That will still be there, but I look forward to seeing what Graham brings on top of that.
The most obvious thing is that clubs such as Manchester City and Liverpool have been successful lately with what is clearly their own long-standing football cultures, ones that mirror the ideals of the manager over a period of time and, although they each took a while to become successful, it was certainly worth waiting for. Think also of Arsene Wenger given time and even all the way back to Sir Alex Ferguson and you can see why building and moulding a club over a period has its own benefits.
It is a big call to emulate those names and their achievements, as well as the great ones who have sat in the manager’s chair at Stamford Bridge. That is what the best in this business must strive to do. Happily, the new ownership have shown they are willing and able to spend the money to help shape the plan. So yes, we have to accept a major change, but that is life and for the club there are certain to be exciting new times ahead.
There is the small matter of a Champions League football match tomorrow night and after slipping up in the first one in Zagreb, this is getting close to be a must-win already if we want to be sure to progress. Some things never change for the Chelsea boss, whoever he is, but Graham Potter will face up to this.
Our fans will be keen to show all due respect to the new boss tomorrow, but more so on this occasion to the former beloved monarch Elizabeth, as well as King Charles III, her successor. Apart from anything else we are, after all, Buckingham Palace’s closest football neighbours and our area, as well as the entire country, will feel a much lesser place without her.