Graham Potter is not that different from many of the other managers. In truth. Softer around the edges, perhaps. A little slower for anger triggers perhaps. That’s not to say he’s a better man for it, just as it’s not necessarily to Chelsea’s detriment if we’re to deviate from the more peculiar positions of recent debates. But he’s a guy with that kind of humility that is more common in those who have taken the hardest paths to destiny.
I remember asking him about that strange road a few years ago during an interview in Swansea. ‘I was totally average,’ he said when talking about his skills as a player. ‘Good at some things, but not great at anything really, to be honest.’ He sat there mocking himself for a short while and then checked to see if I wanted another cup of tea before moving on to his surreal journey through management.
These are well-known stories by now, but even in these dire days for Potter, his story remains enthralling. It also remains the only time I’ve had reason to know that footballs freeze at 18 degrees below zero and in Ostersunds it goes down to minus 20.
‘Like heading a cannonball,’ he said, and from there the anecdotes of training hangover pupils in Leeds, of Swan Lake in Sweden, of taking a small Arctic community on a tour of the divisions, were unlike any other of a man who has since found himself astride a giant.
It was truly a remarkable adventure that brought Potter to the Premier League. And it’s really a symptom of the intensifying malaise around football and society that such success has led to the emails he detailed this week. E-mails wishing him dead. E-mails wishing their children dead too. So that’s where we are, isn’t it? Football in 2023, congratulations to all.
Graham Potter has revealed that he and his family have received death threats from Chelsea fans
Potter has the humility of a manager who has walked an equally difficult path in management.
Without being facetious, it makes you wonder about the limits of such twisted minds, however few were involved: lose Europe and we want you out; miss out to southampton and we’ll bring your family to this. Oh my. The fact that those who know him well speak almost unanimously of Potter as a thoroughly decent man makes it all the more depressing.
This time at Chelsea it hurt him, of course. He already had, before any intrusion into his inbox. He’s spoken about the mental health side openly this week, about how this never-ending drop in results has hit him in private moments, and it’s taking a toll on Rachel and their three children as well. ‘It hasn’t been pleasant at all’ for any of them in that house, and it’s a first for him.
Even for the unique challenges of his rise through management, they almost always came on an upward curve. That goes for Swansea, where anything that wasn’t nailed was sold by him. That goes for Brighton, where he booed one day in 2021 after a draw with Leeds.
At Chelsea, he is dropping like a stone and getting punched on the way, via email, the media and the stands. Oddly enough, emails can be the easiest to bear.
You suspect that if death wishes were considered a serious threat they wouldn’t be publicly discussed, and Potter was evidently in dark humor about the matter, saying on Friday: ‘You know there’s a problem when the email you has been sent sent is from Potterbfirstname.lastname@example.org.’
That’s pretty funny for a toxic situation. And it’s in line with his fondness for self-deprecation – by the looks of it, he walked into that press meeting announcing that he was participating in ‘crisis meetings’, a little nod to the language we use with managers when they’re knee deep in brown stuff. . But the growing anxiety of fans at Stamford Bridge will be harder to ignore.
They moan because football stinks and the results are worse. Potter knows this, so the truth tends to hurt more than a madman’s e-mails. By extension, today’s game with Tottenham looks awfully big. The Champions League second leg with Dortmund on Tuesday looks bigger. Possibly even decisive.
Living on a volcano, Michael Calvin called it in his book on managers. Unfortunately, Potter’s Hill has long looked like Pompeii, circa 79 AD.
Potter is under mounting pressure after another damaging result last weekend
Potter spoke about the difficulty of the past week amid growing pressure and speculation surrounding his work.
Potter, more than most, is the type of manager you would defend time on. A man of complex systems and a proven track record for delivering them; Chelsea are a club in constant flux, so juggling that kind of storm can’t be easy. It could be that Chelsea was really too big and complicated for him at this point, as Manchester United was for David Moyes. I tend to hope not.
Anyway, it’s been interesting listening to Potter and Moyes talk lately. It was Moyes who got me thinking with some comments he made after the West Ham v Everton game, labeled ‘El Sackico’.
Moyes’ team won and Frank Lampard was soon gone, as it said on the tin. It would be disingenuous to say now that it didn’t seem like a semi-fun label, but it shrank when Moyes explained what should have been obvious, that somewhere along the way we stopped seeing managers as human beings.
He was poking at how we, as the media, fans, and indeed the wider circus, occasionally respond in these end-of-days scenarios. How we lose sight of people in the dramas we’re exploring. People like Potter, who runs a great club but is also a father, husband and son who lost both parents in the space of six months a few years ago.
it’s been interesting hearing Potter and West Ham boss David Moyes talk lately
I can understand Moyes’ sentiment without fully agreeing with him – the media and fans are part of the climate in the administrative ecosystem, but it is the clubs and owners who control that aspect of the climate. And yet, there’s a valid question of empathy, and perhaps one reason Moyes’ words struck a chord is because they came a week after something rather unusual.
It was the sharing of a video clip on social media by Mark Hudson’s wife, half of which showed him hugging his son after getting the job in Cardiff City, and watching his son’s giddy reaction. In the second clip, filmed four months later, Hudson was hugging the same guy after being fired. ‘Let’s all go out to dinner and then we’ll pack tomorrow,’ Hudson told him.
Brilliant game, football, but brutal too. And occasionally, when Potterb**tard logs in, it’s just filthy.
An email dropped from UK Anti-Doping on Thursday afternoon. Coming a day after the World Boxing Council, Conor Benn and a resourceful lawyer opened our eyes to what might be possible if you ate too many eggs, the announcement was not what some of us expected.
It was about a rugby player, Junior Laloifi. He plays for Zebre Parma bottom of the United Rugby Championship, and they found cocaine in a sample he gave after a game in Swansea in March 2022. He got three months and the world kept turning.
Conor Benn and a resourceful lawyer opened our eyes to what could be possible if you ate too many eggs.
A few days earlier, I had received a similar email. Callum Marriott, rugby league player. He was with the Rochdale Hornets in Division Two when he was arrested for some banned substances a year ago. He did 15 paragraphs for Rochdale Online.
There are patterns here and you’ll see them more clearly if you go to the UKAD website and check their sanctions list – 38 athletes are serving one of their bans and you won’t find a particularly recognizable name anywhere.
It has long been questioned whether our national anti-doping agency is fit for purpose. He investigates whether they have the power, resources or appetite to go after the bigger fish. In the saga of Conor Benn and his eggs, there’s more than just a reputation at stake.
Newcastle will play the Carabao Cup final on Sunday in their traditional kit rather than their Saudi imitation. Thank heaven for small mercies.