@JoshKilmister takes an in-depth look at possible new manager candidate Graham Potter, who’s done an incredible job at Swedish side Ostersunds.
If you’d told me a few weeks back that one of the Potter’s was being linked with a move to Swansea, I’d have assumed you were talking about Joe Allen.
But with Allen’s Stoke closing the curtains on Carlos Carvalhal’s Premier League pipe dream on Sunday, it’s Ostersunds coach Graham Potter who is being touted as the next man to be named captain of a ship which, after years of being battered by choppy seas, is sinking faster than the Titanic and with about as much credibility as Boaty McBoatFace.
It isn’t the first time that he’s been linked with the managerial job at the Liberty Stadium; a vacancy which, in recent years, seems to be open as often as it is filled. It is believed that Potter, who spent his playing days with clubs including Southampton, West Brom and Stoke City, was approached after the sacking of Garry Monk in 2015.
Potter has, albeit inadvertently, developed various links to the Swans over the years. His current assistant, Billy Reid, was approached by the club in 2010 following the reign of Paulo Sousa, but he opted to stay at Scottish side Hamilton. You could also say he shares a mutual friend with us in Graeme Jones, the trusty assistant of Roberto Martinez who will be on the sidelines in Russia with Belgium this summer. It was Jones, who had first met the Ostersunds chairman when Swansea toured Sweden in 2006, who put Potter’s name forward for the job in the first place. He took the job in December 2010, a few months before the start of the Swedish football season.
“Really it was trying to get the players to enjoy their football because ultimately if they’re not enjoying their football, then it’s hard for that to transmit to the supporters.” – Graham Potter
The rest, any football fan in Scandinavia will tell you, is history. The club had been relegated to the fourth tier of Swedish football when Potter arrived but achieved back-to-back promotions in the following two seasons. Both times they were crowned champions, with Potter being heralded for the flexible, stylish football he’d brought to the club. Their promotion to the top division came 3 years later, with a Svenska Cupen – Sweden’s equivalent to the FA Cup – shortly after.
All of this at a club who were only founded in 1996, and work with an extremely restricted budget. He has a knack for picking up players who are stuck in a crossroads. His studies in psychology have played a huge part in him being able to provide them with the guidance and confidence which has turned them into players who this season beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates in a Europa League tie.
But their miraculous rise didn’t come without a struggle. Potter himself admits that, despite back-to-back promotions in his first two seasons, he found it difficult to attract players to the club:
“For the first couple of years, it was impossible to get people here from the south of Sweden because there was no history, no tradition, no culture. They’re not going to come for the snow, as agents used to say. So we had to provide an identity, a football style that was maybe interesting to people and didn’t fit into the traditional Swedish culture.” – Graham Potter
But it has never been a case of whether Potter’s squad has the quality because he’s always made sure that they have the mental capacity to develop as players. And it’s his bizarre team building exercises which really put him on the map. Every year at Ostersunds, he and the chairman come up with a performing arts project for the players to rehearse and, eventually, perform. From ballet dancing to singing, Potter believes it is a way to encourage players to take responsibility for themselves, allowing them to understand the viewpoints of others in the process.
Whether he’d be able to implement that into a squad in this country is up for debate, but there’s no doubt he’d have more luck doing so in the Championship than in the Premier League.
A far cry from where we stand at the moment, Potter is a firm believer that a football club is the centre of an important community. Their average attendance has increased from a measly 600 to an unbelievable 6,000 since he’s taken over. He is a man who has the trust of not only his chairman but an entire city – something which you’d comfortably argue that he’d have to give up if he were to take the Swansea job.
A punt on Potter would certainly be one I’d be willing to take. The real question here is, should he take a punt on us?
Vital Swansea View
The links with Graham Potter remind me in some ways of when we gave Roberto Martinez his very first managerial opportunity back in 2007. He transformed us and the ‘Swansea Way’ was born. Potter would arrive with many more years of experience than Martinez did 11 years ago, but he’d be called upon to make big changes at the Liberty Stadium.
A big cultural change needs to happen now and it’ll take a special man to get it right next season. Hungrier players are needed, they all need to suit the style of play and have full commitment and belief in what we want to do. Potter has experience of just that, and we could do far worse than someone who has taken a Swedish side from the bottom tier to the top in 5 years. It sounds like the sort of managerial appointment we would have made years ago. Potter wouldn’t necessarily bring a “pass it to death” style like we’ve seen before, but he’d certainly bring a more positive and ambitious one. I feel that we could do far worse than Graham Potter, and while some fans might have failed former Cardiff City manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer in the back of their minds – a manager who came from Norwegian football, you can’t help but feel that Potter has a certain edge to him.
Potter tells The Coaches’ Voice about how he transformed Ostersunds, and there are some interesting and welcoming comments made by Potter.
“Really it was trying to get the players to actually enjoy their football, to come away from the traditional sort of blame and fear culture. To try to get them to say okay, I’m here, we’re trying to help, we want to try and help you improve.
“Mistakes, failures, losses will happen, but we need to try and respond in a good way, try and learn from them and to try and help the players.
Like I said, enjoy their football because ultimately if they’re not enjoying their football, then it’s hard for that to transmit to the supporters. And we had to try to slowly build an identity at the club.
So what does an Ostersund football club team look like on the pitch? So that supporters can again identify with that and businesses and sponsors and everybody in the community can get behind it.” – Graham Potter
His Coaches’ Voice “Masterclass” video below is well worth a watch:
The clip below also gives a further insight into what he’s implemented at Ostersunds: