Graham Potter has had something of an interesting and if you like indifferent start to life as Swansea City boss as we look to re-build following our struggling Premier League years and a huge Summer overhaul of outgoing transfers.
The 43-year-old made the bold decision to end his 7-year spell with Ostersund in Sweden and move his family back to the UK to take on a job at a club that had been guilty of mismanagement and having to sack managers on multiple occasions during a season.
He told the Coaches Voice:
“On the pitch, my job was secure. Off it, Sweden’s ‘Winter City’ was home. After almost eight years there, we were very settled as a family.
My eldest son was eight years old. He loved his school. Loved his friends. Loved his life.
So when the time came to tell him we were leaving, he couldn’t understand why Daddy was moving him to south Wales.
As a family, it was probably as traumatic a thing as we’ve done.”
That had to stop and Graham Potter looks like the type of manager that can bring back some stability and an identity to Swansea City Football Club – having lost it years ago when Huw Jenkins and co threw out their own philosophy as Michael Laudrup’s sacking saw the start of our demise – even if it was masked by Garry Monk’s debut full season that ended in an 8th-place finish.
Taking a job at a club that had 3 different managers in a single season was some risk by Graham Potter but he seems to be the sort of person that is attracted to a challenge, as opposed to walking into an already well-established Championship club with readily available transfer money to spend on building a squad.
Potter was used to working without such riches in Sweden and he’ll be to be content with similar limitations here too. The transfer window is soon approaching again and you can’t help but help but that it’ll be seen by the American owners as simply an opportunity to cut costs and save money. But given the way the season has gone so far, Potter has worked wonders with the squad he’s had available but it’s so obviously clear that he needs reinforcements to turn us into strong top 6 contenders.
I can’t imagine the owners being prepared to commit to helping Potter in that sense in the New Year – meaning that he’ll most likely have to continue to do his best with what he has at his disposal.
A minority of fans might see that as being cynical but you can only judge based on what’s gone on before. A shambolic transfer deadline day that inevitably saw rumours quickly flying out that Potter had already threatened to quit – but such speculation seemed ridiculous given that he’d barely finished arranging his new office desk having only arrived in the city around two months earlier.
Some supporters continued to cast doubt on whether Graham Potter would be prepared to commit to the job for the long-term but if his recent comments to the Coaches Voice are anything to go by, then he seems committed and prepared to see this project through.
Potter was fully aware of the need to rebuild the club when he was considering taking on the role back last Summer:
“But football is strange. Opportunities come up and things can change very quickly.
Towards the end of the spring season, Swansea became one of those opportunities. The more I heard about it, the more I was interested.
It was a club that had lost its way and, importantly, recognised that was the case. So it was about trying to get the club back on its feet again, and back towards a certain identity and values that resonated with me.
Sometimes you have to convince people of playing styles – but at Swansea the supporters wanted a style they’d had success with before.”
Once he committed to taking over the manager’s job at the Liberty Stadium, Potter reveals how he quickly got to work and watched as many Championship games as possible:
“There’s a lot of mess to deal with: players who maybe don’t see their future in the Championship. Some on Premier League salaries. These things all need working through. At the same time, you have to be competitive in a really challenging league.
I’m not naive. As much as we talked about long-term aspects like philosophy and building, I knew we had to be competitive on the pitch in the short term. We had to balance the two.
Once I knew I was coming to the club, I had a little bit of a look at last season, just to get a feel for things and an understanding of the players. At the same time, you don’t want to judge people on trying to stay in the Premier League.
It felt weird.
A couple of weeks earlier, I’d been thinking about Swedish football and how to beat the teams there. Then, in the space of a week, I was trying to get my head around the Championship, watching as many games as possible to find out what the levels were like and what teams were doing.”
‘Free for all’
Talking of the Summer transfer window, he also says how it was a ‘free for all’ as so many players left the club to continue playing in the Premier League.
“We knew that while the transfer window was still open, it was pretty much a free-for-all: everybody who could go, there was a possibility we could lose them. And there was no real clarity in terms of our budget or what we could do in the transfer market, because that was reliant on other things.
When everything is so in flux, you have to be adaptable.”
Reading some reactions to defeats – whether it’s comments on this site or social media, some of them have been rather harsh on Potter and the players and I think some supporters should understand the difficulty that the new manager has had to go through since he first arrived.
He spoke of some of those difficulties to the Coaches’ Voice. Not only did he see around 15 players leave the club when he came in, but he didn’t have the longest pre-season preparation time either. Summer signings weren’t being made early on and at an ideal time for the manager to integrate them with the squad and then you have players on tour like the Ayew brothers, Narsingh, Routledge and Dyer all playing in friendlies despite none of them being involved in League games.
“When you’re talking about a player/coach or any sort of client/coach relationship, the more you know about each other, the better. That’s when more trust emerges. More empathy. The whole depth of the relationship increases and you can start to give feedback in a better way.”
“Confidence, stress, fear: all those things can happen on a football pitch. It’s hard to develop that understanding in four weeks, though. We’re still going through the process now.”
“During pre-season we went away to Germany and Austria. We needed it. Every minute of that trip was vital. Well, I say that… we didn’t actually win a game. You could sense there was a bit of nervousness and frustration. Some individuals were there, but you could see they didn’t want to be – their future was elsewhere.”
‘Turbulent at times’ – ‘it’s a process and this is just the start’
Potter admits that it’s been ‘turbulent at times’ and that he also expects ‘more bumps’ but despite those setbacks and struggles that are out of his control, he still sounds fully committed to the ‘process’:
“In the meantime, we have to compete. There has to be some qualities within the group about honesty, about humility, about respect. Recognising that the game can kill you at any time.
We have to balance these with those longer-term thoughts. And I think we’ve managed to do that in a fairly good way so far.
I’ll be honest, it has been turbulent at times. And there could still be a few more bumps to come. But we’re stable enough to handle those. Everyone knows what we’re working towards now, and how we plan to get there.
It’s a process. And this is just the start.”